When life starts to feel a little more chaotic than usual, it’s time to turn to the words of wisdom of the most successful female leaders of today.
These powerhouse women represent a wide range of industries from politics to business, to life coaching to fashion. Regardless of their widespread acclaim and success today, they all started out in your shoes, striving to be the best version of themselves possible.
No matter if you’re working on your next project, leading a new team, or simply trying to power through tough times, we hope these motivational quotes from female leaders will inspire you to take risks, embrace fear and failure, and be the best leader possible.
Quotes from female leaders on leadership
"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, writer, activist, former first lady of the U.S.
"Just because you are CEO, don't think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization."
—Indra Nooyi, former chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo
"It takes courage and strength to be empathetic, and I'm very proudly an empathetic and compassionate leader. I am trying to chart a different path, and that will attract criticism, but I can only be true to myself and the form of leadership I believe in."
—Jacinda Ardern, 40th prime minister of New Zealand
"Make sure you're working for someone confident who is willing to take risks on you, gives you stretch opportunities, and is there to back you if things get tough. And do the same for people on your team."
—Ruth Porat, SVP and CFO of Alphabet
"At the company, we like to say we're honest, not perfect. We really listen to our customers and our internal teams to pivot as quickly as possible when it comes to addressing any challenges."
—Jessica Alba, actress, cofounder of the Honest Company
Read more: 9 Grace Hopper Quotes to Live By
Quotes from female leaders on setting boundaries and taking care of yourself
"'Restore connection' is not just for devices, it is for people too. If we cannot disconnect, we cannot lead. Creating the culture of burnout is opposite to creating a culture of sustainable creativity. This is something that needs to be taught in business schools. This mentality needs to be introduced as a leadership and performance-enhancing tool."
—Arianna Huffington, author, cofounder of The Huffington Post, founder and CEO of Thrive Global
"One of the most important things for any leader is to never let anyone else define who you are. And you define who you are. I never think of myself as being a woman CEO of this company. I think of myself as a steward of a great institution."
—Ginni Rometty, former executive chairman of IBM
"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, CEO Walgreens Boots Alliance
“I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be.”
—Diane von Furstenberg, fashion designer
“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, activist
Quotes from female leaders on achieving success
“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”
—Michelle Obama, lawyer, author, activist, former first lady of the U.S.
"My best successes came on the heels of failures."
—Barbara Corcoran, investor, speaker, consultant, author, founder of The Corcoran Group
“What's important for my daughter to know is that...if you are fortunate to have opportunity, it is your duty to make sure other people have those opportunities as well.”
—Kamala Harris, politician, attorney, 49th vice president of the U.S.
"The way to achieve your own success is to be willing to help somebody else get it first."
—Iyanla Vanzant, speaker, lawyer, author, life coach
"Within who you are is everything you need in order to be successful at what you're supposed to do."
—Ukonwa Ojo, CMO of Amazon Studios
“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 of Youtube
Quotes from female leaders on failure and fear
"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."
—Maya Angelou, memoirist, poet, civil rights activist
"I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear."
—Rosa Parks, civil rights activist
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
—Audre Lorde, writer, civil rights activist
“If you’re not making some notable mistakes along the way, you’re certainly not taking enough business and career chances."
—Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and cofounder of Ellevest
“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 of Spanx, philanthropist
Quotes from female leaders on being a role model
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”
—Mother Teresa, teacher, missionary
"The important thing is to always ask the world to do some things. But sometimes they cannot be done, so you have to take a stab, and you have to do them."
—Malala Yousafzai, activist, world's youngest Nobel Prize laureate
"I tell my daughters to have their voice in this world, and it became clear I needed to role-model that."
—Melinda Gates, philanthropist, former computer scientist and general manager at Microsoft
"On my own I will just create, and if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, I’ll create something else. I don’t have any limitations on what I think I could do or be."
—Oprah Winfrey, talk show host, television producer, actress, author, philanthropist
“You are never too small to make a difference.”
—Greta Thunberg, environmental activist
Quotes from female leaders on following your passions and purpose
“If there is a job that you feel passionate about, do what you can to pursue that job; if there is a purpose about which you are passionate, dedicate yourself to that purpose.”
—Janet Yellen, economist, 78th U.S. secretary of the treasury
“I work really hard at trying to see the big picture and not getting stuck in ego. I believe we’re all put on this planet for a purpose, and we all have a different purpose…When you connect with that love and that compassion, that’s when everything unfolds.”
—Ellen DeGeneres, comedian, television host, actress, writer, producer
"If you do every job like you're going to do it for the rest of your life, that's when you get noticed."
—Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
“Dreams are lovely but they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It's hard work that makes things happen. It's hard work that creates change.”
—Shonda Rhimes, television producer, screenwriter, author
“I think the truth of the matter is, people who end up as ‘first’ don’t actually set out to be first. They set out to do something they love and it just so happens that they are the first to do it.”
—Condoleezza Rice, diplomat, political scientist, director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University
"What I'd say to women out there is that you have a choice—you decide where to work and which values matter. Choose places that represent the values you care about."
—Sonia Syngal, CEO of Gap Inc.
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
—Angela Davis, political activist, philosopher, author, professor