“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” So said the great Maya Angelou, whose talents and accomplishments with the written word have put her among some of the most inspirational—and great—women leaders. But what makes a woman a great leader? What are the specific traits they possess? Like most things, there is no one right answer. Instead, the “secret sauce” of great leadership can encompass many different things.
Here, in no particular order, are ten of them. Maybe you or someone you know embodies each of these traits, or maybe these traits are something to aspire to. Either way, keep in mind that sometimes great leadership takes some conflict or tough times to manifest itself. But it’s like First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said: “A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”
Here are 10 traits of great women leaders.
1. Not afraid to get out of their comfort zone.
They upend the status quo and shake things up. Trailblazing female leaders understand that change and improvement can only happen if they go beyond what is “normal” and “accepted.”
2. Strength is one of the top female leadership qualities worth emulating.
No one ever got anywhere by being weak. Just remember that sometimes “strength” can mean “strength of resolve.”
3. Focused and passionate about achieving their goals.
A female leader sets her eyes on a goal and musters all her resources to achieve In the case of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she had set her eyes on fighting discrimination in law school. She achieved this goal as the first female member of the Harvard Law Review.
4. Maintain composure during stressful times.
During stressful moments, the ability to remain calm can mean a world of difference, especially when making critical decisions. Women leaders are able to tap into their calmness during times of crisis.
5. Committed to creating space for others to succeed.
Leaders have a moral obligation to help others succeed. For example, great women leaders like Sheryl Sandberg are moving towards the goal of getting more women into leadership positions.
6. Resilient and adaptable.
The ability to fine-tune actions and decisions based on the situation is also a crucial female leadership. Ideally, we gather the facts, weigh them, and make decisions based on the information we have. However, things don’t always work in our favor, hence the need to be resilient and flexible.
7. Seek guidance and advice often.
Seeking guidance and advice requires a lot of courage. Some leaders fail due to their reluctance to seek counsel and direction. Great women leaders, such as Oprah Winfrey, know their limitations and acknowledge the wisdom of those who have been around longer. Said Winfrey, “I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20’s.”
8. Always keeps an open mind.
Being able to keep an open mind means seeing situations from different perspectives. This leadership quality translates into creativity, inventiveness, and resourcefulness in handling challenges. Great women leaders know that there can be different ways to solve one problem.
9. Accountable and responsible.
Accountability and responsibility are also included in the repertoire of great women leaders. Results and consequences may not always turn to our favor. Despite this, female leaders take culpability and do not resort to lay-blaming.
10. Respectful and practice self-awareness.
They are aware that people look up to them. People see how both their professional and personal sides. At the end of the day, leaders are judged based on how their words match their actions.
Greatness doesn’t grow on trees, and strong leadership isn’t always something that comes easy. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re an executive of a company or a mom who spends most of her time taking her kids to various afterschool activities: if you aspire to be something more and hold fast to these traits of great women leaders who’ve come before, greatness will follow.
“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