Powerful women share their secrets for becoming business industry leaders.
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The business world has woken up to the idea of female leadership. We hear dozens of success stories about powerful and influential women, from household names like Oprah Winfrey and Susan Wojcicki, to startup founders like Katrina Lake and Tracy Lawrence.
Yet powerful women are often judged more harshly compared to their male peers. Yale School of Management’s Victoria Brescoll led a study where participants read a fictional story about a police chief preparing for massive protests. In one version of the story, the protest got out of hand and the chief didn’t send enough squad cars, resulting in 25 people getting injured.
The fictional police chief was either a man or woman in these stories. When the male chief failed to act, his rating as an effective chief dropped by about 10%. When the female chief made the same mistake, participants lowered her score by 30%.
“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together,” says Brene Brown, an author, speaker, professor, and podcast host.
Brown is most well-known for tackling subjects such as shame, vulnerability, and leadership. Her work helps people break out of their shells, embrace their flaws, and live authentically.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome,” Brown says.
She believes being vulnerable and open might be frightening, but ultimately, it’s one of the most powerful things someone can be. Most people live in fear of judgment or shame, and unfortunately, those conceptions are among the biggest barriers to success.
Part of being a powerful woman means you’ll have to deal with the occasional rude comment or passive-aggressive aside. But being powerful also means having the ability to overcome these obstacles and not let them hamper your success.
Here’s what four powerful women have to say about leading without fear of judgment.
Your power in business comes from within
Natalie Southgate, founder of Chakradance, offers tools for finding empowerment from within. “Power is an inside job! I think that we grow up with the idea that power is something we get from outside of ourselves — something that can be given and taken away by others. But what I’ve learned in running my global dance therapy business for the last two decades is that we need to find and trust our own inner power to be successful. We need to become self-empowered.” Southgate believes that it’s time to stop relying on others for approval and validation. In doing so, we take our power back.
“When we truly achieve this, there is no need to fear judgment from others. Their thoughts have nothing to do with us; it reflects an unresolved story or drama within themselves. The more we set loving but firm boundaries and do our inner healing work, the more genuinely empowered we become. This is when we rise, not only in business but also in all areas of life.”
Don’t sacrifice family when building your business
Brynn Lang, CEO and founder of Bad Ass Academy, stresses the importance of not sacrificing family while building a business you love. “Intentional entrepreneurs build thriving families, and busy entrepreneurs too often build broken ones. Intention will equal balance and success.” She has found the balance between home and hustle, and now it’s her mission to help others do the same. “Family time must be as planned as business time. It’s so easy to focus solely on building your business, thinking eventually you’ll have time for family. You won’t. You will find burnout and loss,” Lang says. “Be purposeful, and never sacrifice faith or family. Let’s build it bold, authentic, and on purpose, ladies!”
Find power in proof
Dr. Dana McGrady has this to say about navigating business from a place of power: “Judgment ends where proof begins. We live in the land of free speech and loud opinions. If you want to drown them out, simply make a difference that does.” Dr. McGrady’s message is clear: Be a go-getter, and silence the noise with unwavering confidence, passion, and commitment.
“Gone are the days of living in ‘defense mode.’ No more defending your cause or waiting for applause … offense is where the magic is.” McGrady asserts that when you make a big enough impact, you leave the doubters with nothing negative left to say. “Your power is accelerated by your impact. You can come from a place of power and still operate with a motive full of love. People might judge. They might hate or talk behind your back. Love them anyway, and focus on the good that you can do. Then, the good deeds will be returned to you.” McGrady weaves “impact, service, heart, and authenticity” into everything she does. “It’s a part of my calling for this world, and I’m dedicated to helping others do the same.”
Be real with yourself
Ingrid Arna, founder and CEO of The Ingrid Arna Company, believes in the power of being authentic and real. “I failed at coaching for my first two years. Me sharing this truth unapologetically and without shame has magnetized my audience to me because it’s real. Perfection isn’t just a time killer, but it’s a revenue and connection killer.” She stresses the importance of being open and leading with feminine power, vulnerability, and clarity.
“You simply can’t be contained and expect cash and clients to come rolling in,” Arna insists. “You will only truly be heard if your message is not masked by fear or restricted by people-pleasing and towing the line.”
She lives by this ethos. “One of the secrets that allowed me to scale at speed is mastering the art of telling my story — warts and all — to engage, activate, and lead my audience.” By speaking up, uncensoring your voice, and “owning it” online, Ingrid believes that anybody can lead, serve, and build a legacy of wealth and global impact.
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