Leadership Lessons from 15 Women Founders & CEOs

Leadership Lessons from 15 Women Founders & CEOs was originally published on Firsthand.

At the time of writing, women are the CEOs of 41 companies of the Fortune 500; for anyone not looking to do math today, that’s about 8%. And that distressingly low number is actually higher than its ever been. The top tier of leadership is still largely out of the hands of women, but the current crop of women CEOs are some of the best in their respective fields and have excellent advice when it comes to leading teams, learning from mistakes, and time management, among other critical skills required of the C-suite. Below are quotes from some of the most successful women founders and CEOs on their leadership styles, and examples of why these methods are so effective. This infographic was cooked up by our friends at OnDeck to highlight the best in effective leadership, so please read on!

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.

Female Founders and CEOs infographic


  1. Bruneau, M. (2016). The Failure Factor: Meet The Woman Who Revolutionized Dating-Twice. forbes.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 Life. contenfac.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 Do. hbr.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.
  10. 23 Opportunities for Areas of Improvement in the Workplace. glassdoor.com
  11. Sisley, C. (2020). 50 Inspirational Leadership Quotes From Women. workflowmax.com
  12. Jesnoewski, A. (2018). Four ways to identify more business opportunities. smartcompany.com.au
  13. Bruneau, M. (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 Quotes. brainyquote.com
  16. Probst, G. (2015). Better Decision-Making: Identify the Real Problem. executiveeducation.wharton.upenn.edu
  17. Chapin, A. (2015). Five Inspiring Career Tips From Glossier’s Emily Weiss. racked.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 work. microsoft.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 tips. nhs.uk
  31. Gallagher, T. (2019). Women Leading The AI Industry. thriveglobal.com
  32. LucidChart. (2021). Re-evaluating your goals in the midst of change. lucidchart.com
By Vault Careers - Firsthand
We help applicants, students, job-seekers and professionals like you find the right career path using the power of firsthand experiences.