Blog Leadership

8 Lessons from Powerful Women in Leadership for International Women’s Day

In honor of Women’s Day and the brilliant women who have lit the stage of Nordic Business Forum, we want to delve into the wisdom and experiences of eight women who have made significant impacts in their respective fields. Through their stories, these influential women teach us that leadership is not just about reaching the top; it’s about how we overcome obstacles, inspire change, and empower others along the way.

Join us as we explore these eight lessons that challenge conventional notions of leadership and encourage us to reflect on our paths and how we can make a difference in the world!

1. The Power of One

“Change begins with one person, but it’s the combined efforts of everyone that turn it into a movement.” – Malala Yousafzai, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Malala Yousafzai teaches us about “The Power of One.” She emphasizes that individuals can initiate change, but collective efforts are needed to turn it into a movement.

Anyone, regardless of their situation, can influence positive change. Through determination and resilience, a single person can inspire wider movements. Malala’s own activism for girls’ education in Pakistan, despite facing severe threats, shows how individual courage can gather global support and drive significant progress towards educational equality.

2. Embracing Vulnerability for Courage

“We cannot get where we want without being brave and we cannot be brave without being vulnerable. Vulnerability is the ability to show up and to be seen and stay engaged when you´re in fear and uncertainty.” – Brené Brown, Professor & Author

Brené Brown believes that vulnerability is crucial for courage, connection, and growth. She discusses the relationship between courage and vulnerability, urging individuals to face fear with openness and authenticity.

Protective behaviors like perfectionism and cynicism should be avoided. Instead, we should embrace vulnerability as a strength. Brené sees vulnerability as a vital aspect of effective leadership and a foundation for meaningful change.

3. Authenticity is a Competitive Advantage

“Your authenticity is your distinct competitive advantage and it is at the heart of powerful, impactful leadership.” – Carla Harris, Vice Chairman of Wealth Management & Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley

Carla Harris champions authenticity as a key leadership advantage. She argues that authenticity builds trust, fosters genuine connections, and motivates teams.

Authentic leaders, by being true to themselves, encourage others to do the same. Carla underlines that authenticity not only strengthens relationships but also enables individuals to leverage their unique talents for innovation and success. This approach not only outperforms expectations but also establishes a competitive edge, making authenticity a pivotal element of impactful leadership.

4. Persistence and Embracing Failure

“Oftentimes, what you don’t know can be your greatest asset.” – Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx

According to Sara Blakely, achieving success requires persistence and embracing failure. Through her journey with Spanx, she shows how numerous rejections and setbacks didn’t deter her but instead, reinforced her resolve.

Facing challenges is integral to progress. Sara views failures not as hindrances but as opportunities for learning and refinement. She didn’t view failure as a reason to abandon her dreams but rather as an opportunity for growth and improvement. She remained committed to her vision, continuously refining her approach until she achieved success.

5. Balancing Superiority and Inferiority

“Don’t get comfortable with your success.” – Amy Chua, Corporate Lawyer & Legal Scholar

Amy Chua suggests that the combination of a superiority complex, an inferiority complex, and impulse control—referred to as the “Triple Package”—fuels success. The superiority complex instills a sense of exceptionality and ambition, while an inferiority complex drives individuals to work hard to overcome feelings of inadequacy. Together, these traits create a powerful motivation to excel. However, it is important to balance these traits. Adopting a balanced mindset that fosters self-confidence, humility, and a willingness to learn and grow is crucial for maintaining motivation and productivity in the pursuit of long-term goals.

6. Innovation is a New Combination of Existing Elements

“Innovation is about combining existing elements in novel ways to solve complex problems.” – Sheena Iyengar, Professor of Business at Columbia Business School

Sheena Iyengar highlights that innovation is more than inventing new concepts from scratch. Instead, it involves creatively recombining existing ideas, elements, or solutions in unique and unexpected ways to address complex challenges.

If we look deeply enough, we can see that most innovators use familiar concepts creatively to produce something new. Innovation and creativity doesn’t come to just a selected few. Everyone has the ability to explore known components and leverage existing resources for inventive solutions and progress.

7. Getting Uncomfortable

“Good leaders have to just embrace getting uncomfortable.” – Randi Zuckerberg, Former Director of Market Development at Facebook

Randi Zuckerberg emphasizes that crises can serve as catalysts for significant transformation and innovation. Crises compel businesses to make tough decisions and adapt to changing circumstances. While crises can be disruptive, challenging, and uncomfortable, they also present opportunities for growth and innovation. Leaders benefit from being uncomfortable as these situations push them toward action and innovation.

8. Creating Growth

“The world is becoming increasingly unstable.” – Dambisa Moyo, Economist & Author

Dambisa Moyo acknowledges the importance of growth while emphasising long-term sustainability over short-term gains. Tackling structural economic issues such as income inequality, access to education and healthcare, and environmental sustainability are crucial in ensuring economic growth.

Dambisa also points out the role of democratic governance and accountability in ensuring that economic policies benefit all society segments, not just the privileged. Her perspective calls for holistic economic strategies that focus on sustainability, inclusivity, and democracy to address global economic challenges.


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