25 Top Quotes on Leadership by Women Leaders

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According to a study by Pew Research Center last year, women are more compassionate and organized than men when it comes to leadership roles. Unfortunately, the biggest factor in more women not becoming leaders in the political or business world, according to respondents, is that they are expected to do more than their male counterpart to prove themselves. Unfair? Of course it is. It’s very much a man’s world, and criticism of women leaders can often be unfair and sexist. For example, contrast the different book treatments of Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer and Mary Barra of General Motors in this Harvard Business Review article. So how do women who have excelled in their own fields and accomplished so much feel about the topic of leadership? Here are 25 reflections:

  1. Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good. Joanne Ciulla, Prof Jepson School of Leadership Studies

  2. The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.Faye Wattleton, managing director, Alvarez & Marshal

  3. Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization.Indra Nooyi, CEO PepsiCo

  4. Women are leaders everywhere you go, from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women, and we will continue to breakdown walls and defy stereotypes.Nanci Pelosi, Minority Speaker, US Congress

  5. Women lead in different ways. Women rarely feel the need to speak the most at a meeting to make their pointPatricia Bellinger, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

  6. One bad day from one member of my staff doesn’t mean they are not really good at their jobs the rest of the time. I play a long game in terms of management.Helen McCabe, former editor-in-chief, Australian Women’s Weekly

  7. Our emerging workforce is not interested in command-and-control leadership. They don’t want to do things because I said so; they want to do things because they want to do them. Irene Rosenfeld, CEO Mondelez Int

  8. The only real negative that can happen when you fail is if you haven’t learnt from it.Maile Carnegie, Managing Director, Google Australia/New Zealand

  9. I believe in a quiet, strong and grounded leadership. I think some of the best leaders are those whose work is widely known and respected but who, themselves, are relatively unknown.Rachael Chong, founder/CEO, Catchafire

  10. Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want. Dianne Feinstein, US Senator

  11. Some leaders are born women. Geraldine Ferraro, first major US Vice Presidential candidate

  12. Leadership is the ability to guide others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished Lisa Cash Hanson, Snuggwugg CEO

  13. To be Effective, leaders must have the qualities and attitudes necessary to work in a. Group setting. Meg Whitman, president Hewlett-Packard

  14. One of the most important things for any leader is to never let anyone else define who you are. And you define who you are. I never think of myself as being a woman CEO of this company. I think of myself as a steward of a great institution. Ginni Rometty, CEO, IBM

  15. Your job as leader is to stay as close in touch as possible with those closest to the actionKat Cole, president, Focus Brands

  16. For me, leadership is making a difference. It’s using your agency to bring about change. Melanie Verveer, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issue

  17. You have to look at leadership through the eyes of the followers and you have to live the message. What I have learned is that people become motivated when you guide them to the source of their own power, and when you make heroes out of employees who personify what you see in the organization.  Anita Roddick, founder, Bodyshop

  18. Strategic leaders must not get consumed by the operational and tactical side of their work. They have a duty to find time to shape the future. Stephanie S Mead, Senior VP, CMOE

  19. We need to accept that we don’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.Arianna Huffington, Co-founder/Editor, Huffington Post

  20. I wake up every morning and think to myself, ‘How far can I push the company forward in the next 24 hours?’  Leah Busque, founder/CEO TaskRabbit

  21. I want every little girl who’s been told she’s bossy to be told again she has leadership skills Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

  22. A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be. Rosalynn Carter, Former First Lady.

  23. Without passion, a person will have very little influence as a leader. Michele Payn-Knoper, Leadership speaker

  24. Find the smartest people you can and surround yourself with them. Marissa Meyer, CEO Yahoo

  25. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else. Sara Blakely, founder, Spanx


Inspirational and motivational, these women share the valuable lessons they have learned so that others can be the best leaders too.

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