Last year, Fortune announced that for the first time, 6.4% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women—a new record. While we can all agree that’s far too low, this is an unprecedented increase of more than 50% in a year. In even better news, there are more resources than ever directed towards learning what qualities and circumstances drive women into corporate leadership.
An Oxford University study assessed 151 male and female CEOs and their journeys to the corner office and found a few common themes. In general, men note their defining moments as leaders happened early in life while women didn’t see themselves as leaders until they were already in an organization. Men rely on networks and mentors to make the climb while women reported that they observe others and invest in self-development. There’s a lot we can learn from these trailblazers, so here are nine times female business leaders inspired us with their words.
1) Follow your passion
“What I wanted was to be allowed to do the thing in the world that I did best—which I believed then and believe now is the greatest privilege there is. When I did that, success found me.”
Debbi Fields – Mrs. Fields
2) Avoid the easy road
“Go through some difficult experiences. If you can live through them and learn from them, you have a much better chance of knowing what to do when the chips are down and everyone else is freaking out.”
Debra A. Cafaro – Ventas, Inc.
3) Don’t wait until you’re ready
“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 – Yahoo
4) Embrace the unknown
“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 – Spanx
5) Be adaptable
“Option A is not available. So let’s kick the sh** out of option B.”
Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook
6) Get uncomfortable
“If we can learn to deal with our discomfort and just relax into it, we’ll have a better life.”
Mellody Hobson – Ariel Investments
7) Find a mentor, then be a mentor
“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.”
Melinda Gates – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
8) Make mistakes
“We need to accept that we won’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 – Huffington Post
9) Don’t fear obstacles
“If you are committed to creating value and if you aren’t afraid of hard times, obstacles become utterly unimportant. A nuisance perhaps, but with no real power. The world respects creation; people will get out of your way.”
Candice Carpenter – iVillage
10) Believe in yourself
“If people are doubting how far you can go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore.”
Michele Ruiz – Ruiz Strategies
Feeling inspired? With some passion, a few mistakes and a little fearlessness you could be on your way to the top.
The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.