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Do You Have a Leadership Mindset?

Take a look at the 2016 Forbes World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. You’ll certainly see some familiar names and faces, particularly in the top 10. But when it comes to money, media presence, spheres of influence, and impact (the four metrics used to select them), what is it that all of these female leaders have in common?


Despite their wide diversity of cultural backgrounds, industries, and styles, the uniting factor that has catapulted these 100 women into the top echelon globally comes down to having a leadership mindset. Cultivating this type of mindset in an organization often comes down to leadership agility and how skillfully one can navigate change, failure, and crisis. It’s the hard times that call out one’s leadership /brand and determine how one is viewed, not how well one leads during relatively stable conditions. All of the women on the Forbes list have certainly experienced setbacks and deal with change every day—but importantly, they’ve done so while maintaining a growth mindset, which is an important attribute for any leader or executive.

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What Do Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Have in Common?

With the recent publication of Fortune magazine’s annual ranking of Most Powerful Women (MPW), the obvious question is: what are these leaders doing right? There are 27 CEOs on the 2015 list who in aggregate control $1 trillion in stock market value. A quick scan through the list reveals one thing that many of the most successful women in business have in common: they were brought into the top spot when their organizations were in major flux or crisis.


Let’s look at two examples heading the list: this year’s number-one MPW, Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, took on her current role just one year ago in the midst of the auto manufacturer’s ignition-switch recall. While 2014 profits dropped 26 percent in the wake of the recalls, this year Barra has led the company beyond the crisis with climbing sales of trucks and SUVs despite weak international markets.

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Another Woman Leader Emerges!

Last week was a big week for Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. She testified in front of Congress regarding the ignition problem that spurred the eventual recall of millions of GM cars. Watching the media cover her widely anticipated visit to Capitol Hill, I began to realize that while this was a crisis moment for GM, it was also an unparalleled opportunity for Mary Barra to demonstrate her personal brand of leadership.

Leading up to the day of her testimony, I received numerous calls from the media asking how I thought she would and should handle herself and even if I thought she would be treated any differently because she was a woman. My reply is always the same: it’s not really a gender issue but rather it’s about taking personal responsibility and doing the right thing.

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