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50 Inspirational Leadership Quotes From Women

From leading nations, to standing up for human rights, to running the world’s most important organisations, women continue to shape the world through their leadership.

Whether you’re planning your next project, working on your side hustle, or leading your team – we hope these quotes about leadership from renowned women leaders will inspire you in your next endeavour.

Editor's note: This blog post was updated from its original version on 21 May 2020.

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1. “The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”
- Padmasree Warrior (CEO & Founder, Fable)

2. “One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”
- Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister of New Zealand)  

3. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
- Muriel Strode (Poet) 

4. “Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.”
- Joanne Ciulla (Author and Educator)

5. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
- Marianne Williamson (Author and Activist) 

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6.  “You are never too small to make a difference.”
- Greta Thunberg (Environmental Activist)  

7. “If you’re not making some notable mistakes along the way, you’re certainly not taking enough business and career chances."
- Sallie Krawcheck (CEO & Co-Founder, Ellevest)

8. “We need to accept that we don’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes. Understand that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”
- Arianna Huffington (Founder & CEO, Thrive Global)

9. “Rarely are opportunities presented to you in a perfect way. In a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. 'Here, open it, it's perfect. You'll love it.' Opportunities – the good ones – are messy, confusing and hard to recognize. They're risky. They challenge you.”
- Susan Wojcicki (CEO, Youtube) 

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10. “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”
- Oprah Winfrey (Media Executive and Philanthropist) 

11. “If you want to run for Prime Minister, you can. If you don’t, that’s wonderful, too. Shave your armpits, don’t shave them, wear flats one day, heels the next. These things are so irrelevant and surface to what it is all really about, and I wish people wouldn’t get caught up in that. We want to empower women to do exactly what they want, to be true to themselves, to have the opportunities to develop.”
- Emma Watson (Actor and Activist) 

12. “I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist."
- Ginni Rometty (Executive Chairman, IBM)

13. “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 (Co-Founder, Lumi Labs)

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14. “Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt (Former First Lady of the United States)

15. “Who you are surrounded by often determines who you become.” 
- Vicky Saunders (Founder, SheEO)

16. “Magic happens when you connect people. I credit much of my success to always making it a point to truly get to know people and help them whenever I can. It’s become the backbone of our firm’s success. Women founders in particular are often highly skilled at making connections that can help advance their businesses.”
- Susan Macpherson (Founder & CEO, McPherson Strategies)

17. “Leadership is hard to define, and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.”
- Indra Nooyi (Former CEO, PepsiCo)

18. “Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.”
- Dianne Feinstein (Senior United States Senator)

19. “Emotional intelligence is the ability to use emotion to increase your own and others’ success.”
- Annie McKee (Author and Business Advisor) 

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20. “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence, and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”
- Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook)

21. “It’s okay to admit what you don’t know. 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.”
- Mary Barra (CEO, General Motors)

22. “Leadership should be more participative than directive, more enabling than performing.”
- Mary D. Poole (Author)

23. “With kids, they don’t do what you want them to do when you want them to do it. Organizations don’t necessarily, either. You’ve got to listen. You’ve got to learn how to influence.”
- Ellen J. Kullman (President & CEO, Carbon)

24. “People respond well to those that are sure of what they want.”
- Anna Wintour (Editor-in-Chief, Vogue)

25. “Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.”
- Hillary Clinton (American Politician)

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26. “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 (Founder & CEO, Spanx)

27. “Part of leadership is knowing when to go ahead with a decision that’s within your authority because you’re really convinced it’s the right thing, even if other people don’t understand it at that point."
- Dr. Ingrid Mattson (Professor, Huron University College)

28. “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 Olson (Co-CEO, Fullbridge)

29. “You have to look at your career and personal life at the big-picture level: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Doing that helps me feel OK during the weeks when one part of my life overwhelms the other.”
- Joanna Horsnail (Partner, Mayer Brown LLP)

30. “No one else is going to build the life you want for you. No one else will even be able to completely understand it. The most amazing souls will show up to cheer you along the way, but this is your game. Make a pact to be in it with yourself for the long haul, as your own supportive friend at every step along the way.”
- Tara Mohr (Leadership Coach and Author)

31. “I’m a maniacal perfectionist. And if I weren’t, I wouldn’t have this company.”
- Martha Stewart (Author and Television Personality)

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32. “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”
- Michelle Obama (Former First Lady of the United States)

33. “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, Disney ABC Television Group)

34.  “Without being willing to fail and continually get back up again, I would never have been able to find the right market and establish my product within it."
- Kelly Manthey (Group Chief Executive, Kin+Carta)

35. “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 (Former First Lady of the United States)

36. “I’ve always subscribed to the belief that the best leader is not one who has the most followers, but one who creates the most leaders. I strive every day — and in every program and offering we have at Integrous Women — to create more conscious, confident, and soulful leaders who, in return, will build a better world for all.”
- Stephanie Courtillier (Founder, Integrous Women)

37. “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me?”
- Ayn Rand (Author) 

38. “You need to spend political capital - be unafraid to introduce people, compliment somebody when it’s deserved and stand up for something you really believe in, rather than just go with the flow.”
- Amy Schulman (Partner, Polaris Partners)

39. “Leadership is about the team - the culture they keep and embrace, it’s about empathy for your customers, clients, employees and the communities where you do business, it’s about doing the right thing for the right reasons, being confident enough to take risks and responsible enough to think of those who your decisions and risks may affect.”
- Kat Cole (COO & President of FOCUS Brands)

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40. “Do not be afraid to make decisions. Do not be afraid to make mistakes.”
- Carly Fiorina (Former CEO, Hewlett-Packard)

41. “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.”
- Maya Angelou (Civil Rights Activist and Poet)

42. “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Former President of Liberia)

43. “Making the decision to not follow a system, or someone else’s rules has allowed me to really dig into what my own strengths and gifts are without spending time feeling jaded or wasteful.”
- Ishita Gupta (Founder, Fear.less Magazine)

44. “Success is an exception, so be exceptional.”
- Malti Bhojwani (Professional Coach and Author)

45. A good leader is able to paint a picture of a vision for the future and then enlist others to go on the journey with her. A truly conscious leader recognizes that it is not about her, but that the team is looking to her for inspiration and direction. Keeping her ego in check is essential.”
- Tamra Ryan (CEO, Women’s Bean Project) 

46. “I have broken many glass ceilings - so I know it can be done.”
- Helen Clark (Former New Zealand Prime Minister and UNDP Administrator)

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47. “You can and should set your own limits and clearly articulate them. This takes courage, but it is also liberating and empowering, and often earns you new respect.” 
- Rosalind Brewer (COO & Group President of Starbucks)

48. “I think it’s a combination of personality traits that have helped me to succeed. Not only hard work - but patience, sacrifice and choosing my battles have all helped me to reach the point in my career to which I aspired, in a company I admired.”
- Katelyn Gleason (CEO & Founder of Eligible)

49. "Cultivate a network of trusted mentors and colleagues. Other people can give us the best insight into ourselves—and our own limitations. We must have the courage to ask for help and to request feedback to expand our vision of what's possible.”
- Maria Castañón Moats (Assurance Partner, PwC)

50. "Continuous learning leads to continuous improvement. Commit yourself to advancing your knowledge, skills, and expertise. The business environment is quickly changing, and your understanding of the leading practices, thinking, and emerging tools will help you manage for better results. Be a lifelong student."
- Pamela Gill Alabaster (Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Centric Brands)

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Caitlin Sisley
Caitlin Sisley is a Marketing Content Writer at WorkflowMax, and has over six years of experience in digital content production. She has worked on creative copy for a large number of New Zealand businesses - from tiny startups to household names. With a Master of Professional Studies from the University of Auckland, she is passionate about small business and corporate responsibility.

Caitlin Sisley