15 Leadership Lessons From Female Founders and CEOs

May 11, 2022 1 Min Read
Women leaders have leadership qualities men can emulate
Source:Female worker vector created by freepik.com
Leadership Lessons We Can Emulate from Women Leaders

When Lisa Su was 10 years old, she used to take apart her brother’s remote-control cars and put them back together.

Three decades later, the electrical engineer-turned-CEO took charge of chip maker Advanced Micro Devices as its stock plummeted. She took the company apart, put it back together, and boosted share prices by more than 1,300% in six years.

“Run toward the hardest problems,” says Su, expanding on one of her greatest life lessons. “This approach has helped me to learn a tremendous amount from both success and failure.”

Su’s success, rescued from the ‘glass cliff’ of failure, exemplifies the findings of a recent Harvard Business Review study: women are better leaders during a crisis.

Characteristics that HBR’s survey respondents rated as most important in a crisis include:

  • Inspires and motivates
  • Communicates powerfully
  • Collaboration/teamwork
  • Relationship building

Related: 10 Traits of The Confident Female Leader

To unpack some of these leadership competencies and more, OnDeck gathered 15 quotes from female founders like Su, and took them apart to see what makes them work.

The Fall Guy

A running theme through OnDeck’s research is that humility and fallibility go a long way.

“When you accept that failure is a good thing, it can actually be a huge propeller toward success,” as Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd says.

There’s a lesson in every failure. Each one takes you closer to a desirable outcome – even if the route might not be the one you intended. Accept your mistakes, rather than riding over them, and you become more adaptable in the future.

True confidence comes from knowing you’ve studied the angles – including finding out what doesn’t work. It also comes from knowing your limits: “It’s okay to admit what you don’t know,” says Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. “It’s okay to ask for help. And it’s more than okay to listen to the people you lead – in fact, it’s essential.”

Barra’s point indicates another general trend in our research: successful leaders are team-oriented.

Nurture talent, and your collective success will be greater than if you shoot for the headlines as a lone superstar. A team maintained by support, trust, and understanding lightens the burden on the leader. And a leader that capitalizes on the diverse strengths of their teammates expands what is possible for their business:

“Building a good team requires you to hire people that may know more in a certain subject than you do,” says Helen Robertson, Franchise Owner of Expedia Cruises. “Find individuals who have a diverse set of skills and experiences and feel free to rely on them for advice and responsibilities.”

Putting the XX/XY in Team

OnDeck’s conclusions are echoed in an analysis of gender differences in leadership effectiveness, written by the Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup and Cindy Gallop, CEO and self-proclaimed “Michael Bay of business”.

They argue that male domination in leadership roles creates a learning block in business and politics – especially because women are demonstrably more effective as leaders. Indeed, men may rise to leadership roles more often than women because society misreads overconfidence and apparent infallibility as ‘symptoms’ of success. Often, brash confidence is just a symptom of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Women feel they must emulate men to get to the top, when it would be better if the men at the top emulated women. The writers highlight humility, empathy, self-knowledge, and the elevation of others among the leadership lessons (most) men can learn from (most) women.

Of course, we’ve all got a lot to learn from each other. From our successes and our failures. But for an instant business school effect, try starting with these 15 lessons from successful leaders – all of the gender that has been repeatedly proven to be the best bet for business leadership, through the bad times and the good.

This article is republished courtesy of ondeck.

Read more on women leadership on Necole. Necole is a state of the art learning platform that curates personalised learning just for you. **SPECIAL OFFER - Use this code ABETTERME and get a 5% discount on your subscription to Necole. To find out more about Necole or to subscribe,click here. In the meantime, check out this video on Necole.

Share This


Tags: Women & Leadership


  1. Bruneau, M. (2016). The Failure Factor: Meet The Woman Who Revolutionized Dating-Twiceforbes.com
  2. Myers, C. (2018). How To Accept, Process, And Learn From Failure. forbes.com
  3. DePhillips, K. (2018). 25 Quotes That’ll Inspire Entrepreneurial Women to Kick Ass in Business And In Lifecontenfac.com
  4. MacKay, J. (2020). The “Everything is Important” paradox: 9 practical methods for how to prioritize your work (and time). rescuetime.wpengine.com
  5. Holmes, A. (2020). 25 Inspirational Quotes from Female Leaders. mentorresources.com
  6. Folkman, Z. (2016). What Great Listeners Actually Dohbr.org
  7. Jacobson, E. (2012). Effective Listening: Do’s And Don’ts. ericjacobsononmanagement.blogspot.com
  8. Smith, J. (2021).45 Empowering Quotes From Successful Women. consistentrecruitment.com
  9. Apostolopoulos, A. (2020). Employee upskilling & reskilling statistics: Casting light on the trend.talentlms.com
  10. 23 Opportunities for Areas of Improvement in the Workplaceglassdoor.com
  11. Sisley, C. (2020). 50 Inspirational Leadership Quotes From Womenworkflowmax.com
  12. Jesnoewski, A. (2018). Four ways to identify more business opportunitiessmartcompany.com.au
  13. BruneauM. (2019). Five Women Entrepreneurs Share The Best Advice They’ve Ever Received. forbes.com
  14. Davidson, B. (2016). How to Say No at Work. businessbacker.com
  15. Brainy Quote. (2021). Top 10 Lisa Su Quotesbrainyquote.com
  16. Probst, G. (2015). Better Decision-Making: Identify the Real Problemexecutiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu
  17. Chapin, A. (2015). Five Inspiring Career Tips From Glossier’s Emily Weissracked.com
  18. Blasky, R. (2020). Empower Yourself: Ask for What You Want. theleapnetwork.coachesconsole.com
  19. Smith, J. (2021).45 Empowering Quotes From Successful Women. consistentrecruitment.com
  20. Campbell, A. (2019). 5 ways to spread enthusiasm at workmicrosoft.com
  21. Gracious Quotes. (2021). 54 Sheryl Sandberg Quotes on Leadership (LEAN IN). graciousquotes.com
  22. Knight, R. (2019). How to Manage Your Perfectionism. hbr.org
  23. Tigar, L. (2020). 20 Inspiring Quotes and Mentorship Advice From Female Leaders. realsimple.com
  24. Reigel, D. (2019). 3 Questions That Will Quickly Uncover Your Employees’ Motivation. inc.com
  25. Standard Charter. (2019). Leadership qualities: this is the face of the 21st century. sc.com
  26. Schooley, S. (2020). Setting Clear Expectations for Employees. businessnewsdaily.com
  27. Gilchrist, K. (2018). A growing number of women are starting their own companies. These business owners share how they got it right. cnbc.com
  28. Bika, N. (2021). How to conduct a skills gap analysis. resources.workable.com
  29. Long, S. (2019). 6 Black Women Share How to Become Your Own Boss. refinery29.com
  30. Donaldson-Feilder, Emma. (2021). Easy time-management tipsnhs.uk
  31. Gallagher, T. (2019). Women Leading The AI Industrythriveglobal.com
  32. LucidChart. (2021). Re-evaluating your goals in the midst of changelucidchart.com

Barbara Davidson is a Senior Content Writer and financial guru at Enova. She has over seven years of experience in digital marketing, and is always looking for exciting ways to expand her strategies and reach new audiences with her content.

You May Also Like

AI, artificial intelligence

The Evolution of Administrators: Embracing AI and Honouring Human Skills

By Roxanne Calder. Discover how the role of administrators is evolving in the age of artificial intelligence (AI) and the fourth and fifth industrial revolutions. Embrace the benefits of AI collaboration while nurturing essential human skills to stay ahead of emerging changes and trends in the workplace.

Jun 06, 2023 4 Min Read


How To Shift Your Skills And Future-Proof Yourself

Hui Ming Ang, co-founder and Growth & Strategic Initiatives Leader at Leaderonomics, explores examples of skills that have evolved and those that are emerging in various industries to explain what shifting skills entails, how it relates to upskilling, and how it can help us prepare for the future.

Mar 27, 2023 24 Min Podcast

Calendar Planning

#LifeHacks: Timeboxing

Roshan Thiran, Founder and CEO of The Leaderonomics Groups, shares the concept of timeboxing.

Oct 04, 2021 14 Min Video

Be a Leader's Digest Reader