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The World’s Most Powerful Women Share Their Best Leadership Advice

“There’s a favorite quote of mine from Eleanor Roosevelt which reads, ‘One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.’ While many of us have believed passionately in women leaders for many years, now is a time for action. My advice to budding female leaders would be: Believe in yourself and your potential. I believe that being confident in my abilities and what I have to offer is the single most important reason I have been successful in my career.”

– Lauren Moore, Johnson & Johnson

“Keep the vision of why you want to lead and not least what you want to lead towards. And keep articulating the vision for the work to your staff and partners. That is what makes the difference between a manager and a leader. Make sure that you really want to go that extra mile to become a leader. It takes hard work, time, tenacity, and sometimes trade-offs and compromises with personal life. Ask not first, how can I do this or that?, but who can I do it with? Networking, alliance building, and daring to hire people who are better than you, is what is going to get the job done well — and help you rise to and in the C-Suite.”

– Katja Iversen, Women Deliver

“My mom, who was only able to go to school for six years because she had to help out on the family farm, taught me that nothing is impossible, as long as you use your talents to the max and are willing to work hard and long hours. That gave me the self-confidence that every girl and every woman needs to get to where she wants to be. So here’s my advice: Trust your own talents, work hard, enjoy the journey, and don’t forget to celebrate your successes!”

— Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in The Netherlands

“First, you have to be very honest and ask yourself, what do I really want? Say it out loud to yourself, write it down and stay true to it. Then, seek out mentors and sponsors to help you achieve your goals. They are not the same. A mentor will coach you on how to flourish professionally – and often personally. A sponsor advocates for you and your advancement. Both are critical. It’s also critical you give back. A true leader takes the time to coach and advocate for others. We have to support each other! And finally, work hard and seek out incredible experiences – don’t be afraid to take a step back to learn from an experience that will help your career path. Be generous with yourself, investing in experiences that help you grow and feed your passion. Not every step needs to be ‘up’ to build your career.”

– Beatriz Perez, Coca-Cola

“As the leader of a political party, I learnt quickly that – despite being the most experienced in the room – I had the double jeopardy of being the youngest and a woman. Older men made quite clear that was an unacceptable arrangement. But I stayed true to my beliefs and principles. I also learnt that appeasement doesn’t work. Numbers do. And we need more women! My advice to women – regardless of age or background – is that our experiences are worthy and legitimate, regardless of how long we have been alive or what we have done. Our diversity and difference deserves to be reflected and represented. I also strongly advise you to have support networks: politics is a hard profession to pursue alone. Like-minded friends and allies are important, not only to support you when things are tough, but to ensure your views are tested and challenged, to make sure you are representing people and their ideas as well as your own. We cannot expect women to be homogenous; in fact, we should hope our different views are represented. But I do expect women to support each other in an environment where they are outnumbered. Gender equality is arguably the greatest human rights challenge of our time: we need you in politics to ensure we achieve it.”

– Natasha Stott Despoja, Former Senator, Australia

“All too often, women are told they can’t — that they’re not good enough or they don’t belong. My message is — yes, you can. I was raised by my mother and grandmother — two strong women who taught me that no woman should be held back from realizing her dreams just because she is a woman. One crucial thing that can make a huge difference is having a mentor. My foundationsupports women in developing and emerging economies to grow successful businesses — as part of this we run an online mentoring program which connects women entrepreneurs with men and women mentors from across the world. We know that having the support of a mentor can boost your confidence, expand your capabilities, and open the door to new opportunities. I firmly believe that any woman can rise to success, as long as she has access to the skills and tools she needs to realize her full potential.”

 Cherie Blair, U.K.

“My advice to young women seeking political office is to go for it! Hone your sense of purpose and embrace the opportunity to change the course of your nation. It will be challenging and it will require resilience, but if you stay true to your purpose, the opportunity to shape your country will absolutely be worth it.”

– Julia Gillard, Former Prime Minister of Australia

“I was privileged to lead my country, New Zealand, as Prime Minister for nine years. The route to that was long and arduous, and there were many setbacks along the way. My advice to younger women setting out on the path to leadership is to be prepared to play a long game. No one will lay out a red carpet for any of us. We have to build the networks and alliances necessary to reach the top.”

– Helen Clark, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand

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