Lessons on success from 15 powerful women leaders


The annals of history are lettered with the stories of powerful women who held their own and shone in ‘a man’s world’. From Joan of Arc, who led an Army against the English in the 15th Century before being killed at the age of 19 to our own Rani Laxmibai; and from Katherine Graham, the first-ever woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company to Indra Nooyi, women have catapulted to the front of the race in every field. And all this while fulfilling the traditional duties of being wife, mother, and homemaker. In fact, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, dubbed the Iron Lady, once famously said, “Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.”

And these heights were not attained by sudden flight. Like every success story, theirs too are built on a foundation of struggle, mistakes and things just not going their way. But like all winners, they had the grit to power through and keep pushing forward. And we all have much to learn from their experiences.

Here is what some of these amazing women have had to say about what kept them going.


It is said that courage is not absence of fear, but the strength to accept and face one’s fears, be it fear of failing or just the fear of being laughed at.

You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right. – Aung San Suu Kyi
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, CEO of Yahoo!
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, Co-founder and Editor-In-Chief of Huffington Post

Keep it real

If successful people are idealistic dreamers, they are also practical enough to fructify their plans by looking at alternatives, learning from failure, and moving on.

The question is not whether we are able to change, but whether we are changing fast enough.” – Angela Merkel
There is nothing like a concrete life plan to weigh you down. Because if you always have one eye on some future goal, you stop paying attention to the job at hand, miss opportunities that might arise, and stay fixedly on one path, even when a better, newer course might have opened up. – Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo
The difference between successful people and others is how long they spend time feeling sorry for themselves. – Barbara Corcoran, Founder of Corcoran group
As you become more successful, the gender barrier disappears. The credibility challenges you have during your growing up years starts disappearing when you start demonstrating success. – Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence. – Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Stay focussed

The truly strong leaders never lose sight of their goals and are completely determined about reaching their destination.

The focus is what is right before you – to give it your best. It sows the seeds of tomorrow. – Kiran Bedi
One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. – Michelle Obama
Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live. – Anne Sweeney, former President of Walt Disney

Be grateful

The most inspiring leaders look beyond immediate results and material success. Paradoxically, it is their altruistic motives that leads them on the path of success.

 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
Whatever title or office we may be privileged to hold; it is what we do that defines who we are. Each of us must decide what kind of person we want to be – what kind of legacy we want to pass on. – Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan

Most importantly, stay grounded

The best leaders are modest, genuine, and always have a sense of humour, especially the ability to laugh at themselves.

I realised I was more convincing to myself and to the people who were listening when I actually said what I thought, versus what I thought people wanted to hear me say. – Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox
I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes! – Oprah Winfrey


Now that you are inspired by these nuggets of wisdom, go forth and achieve your aspirations!



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