While their stories are often very different, there are many common traits of successful women. And though success can be defined in many ways, the characteristics are similar. Women may push through more or different obstacles than their male counterparts but are showing their strength in the boardroom and beyond. The following are just some traits of successful women and ones to emulate as you find your success.
A key to success for women in business is a vision for what the future looks like. You see where you want to go and create a path for getting there. Whether you are in business for yourself, climbing the corporate ladder, or leading a thriving nonprofit, set ambitious goals and gather the resources you need to make it happen. Seek out mentors to guide you and take determined action on big and little things toward your goals.
Unlike the promise of get-rich-quick schemes, real success comes from persistent effort to get what you want. It’s not only about perfecting what you do through practice; it’s about mindset—seeing challenges as opportunities and adapting to changing times and conditions. Successful women focus on the end game and aren’t distracted by life’s side shows.
In a world where business, technology, and research create an ever-evolving landscape, learning has never been more important. Insatiable curiosity is at the center of a learning-centered habit. Colleges have shifted their focus to experiential learning because it resonates more deeply than traditional rote learning. You learn more because you feel it. It’s not only about learning about your area of focus. Explore the breadth of human experience and cross-disciplinary knowledge to have a broader understanding of how you fit into the world and why your work matters.
Compassion strengthens relationships. Author and motivational speaker Brené Brown says,
“Compassion is not a virtue — it is a commitment. It’s not something we have or don’t have — it’s something we choose to practice.” Having compassion isn’t a matter of tacit agreement in thoughts or actions. Listening and understanding a person’s position builds trust that lasts through even the hardest of times.
Whether through the words you say, the products or services you offer, or the actions you take (or don’t take), integrity is foundational to building and maintaining successful relationships. A foundation of trust makes it easier to weather occasional mistakes and slipups.
We are part of a whole and can all contribute in large and small ways for the good of a relationship or society in general. There are many ways to give and many reasons to share the things you value—your time, talent, and treasure.
You don’t need to serve on boards of large nonprofits or give up every weekend to your favorite charity to be generous. Successful women do the little things, too. It’s a consistent way of being that permeates your interactions with others.
Donations of any size — whether it’s clicking the “Donate Now” button on an organization’s website or volunteering your time and energy to a charitable cause — build your connection with those in the community and expand your sense of purpose in the world.
Mary Tyler Moore says,
“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” Fear is an indication you are moving from the safety of the known to the uncertainty of the unknown. Successful women embrace this uncertainty to follow their passions, pull themselves out of bad situations, and take bold actions toward their vision.
If your courageous act doesn’t work the way you hoped, being resilient can put you back on solid ground. In face of failure, in the light of loss, or with the uncertainty of changing situations an optimistic attitude is key to rising to the challenge.
“Success is not the absence of failure; it’s the persistence through failure,” according to actress and director Aisha Tyler.
Successful women believe things will eventually be ok even if they aren’t right now.
Successful women make time to cultivate the best versions of themselves. Focusing on self is not only important but essential to the success you desire. Intentional focus on physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being is not a selfish act. It strengthens your core. You have more energy, focus, and gratitude for all you seek in business and in life.
Read about 21 successful women who share their extraordinary stories in Pearls: Women Who Radiate Success.