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What makes a great leader? 10 Powerful Women Weigh In

What makes an effective, visionary leader? Some of the most interesting insights and answers to this question come from those who are considered trail-blazing leaders in their own right. 

However, many of the leaders that are most often quoted are men. Perhaps that is because (according to the Harvard Business Review), “fewer than 5% of CEOs of public companies in the United States today are women. In the Fortune 500, that number fell by 25% from 2017 to 2018, dipping from 32 (6.4%) to 24 (4.8%), before rising back in 2019”.1

However, “Women have outnumbered men on college campuses since 1988. They have earned at least one-third of law degrees since 1980 and accounted for one-third of medical school students by 1990. Yet, they have not moved up to positions of prominence and power in America at anywhere near the rate that should have followed”.2

Here are 10 quotes from powerful women on working hard, taking risks and learning from failure. 

On working hard

"Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles." — Tina Fey

“Work harder than everybody. You’re not going to get it by whining, and you’re not going to get it by shouting, and you’re not going to get it by quitting. You’re going to get it by being there.”― Barbara Walters

On taking risks:

“Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.” ― Amy Poehler

“I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.” — Marissa Mayer

On learning from failure:

“Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.”— Rosamund Stone Zander

“Don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands. You are not going to be you, fixed and immutable you, forever.”― Nora Ephron

“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great good fortune.”― Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On managing a team:

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

“It sounds so simple to say that bosses need to tell employees when they’re screwing up. But it very rarely happens… I would argue that criticizing your employees when they screw up is not just your job, it’s actually your moral obligation.” — Kim Scott

On finding balance:

“Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. That’s what I have to say. The second is only a part of the first… There are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul…People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a résumé than to craft a spirit. But a résumé is cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the chest X ray and it doesn’t look so good, or when the doctor writes ‘prognosis, poor.’ ” — Anna Quindlen

https://hbr.org/2019/07/research-board-experience-is-helping-more-women-get-ceo-jobs

2 https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2018/11/20/461273/womens-leadership-gap-2/

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