What does it mean to be successful? Success has an almost infinite amount of measures. Some define it as a net worth, reaching a specific title, or even having a private plane.
I started my career at a time when being a female in leadership was beyond uncommon. I was the only female in leadership for many years. There were no lessons learned shared from those that had gone before me. I learned quickly what was needed to be successful, mostly through trial and a lot of error. Along the way I had the amazing fortune of being coached by some the greatest coaches and leaders of our time. It was then that I feel in love with coaching and spent the next 20+ years coaching some tremendously successful women along their journey.
I have had the privilidege of coaching hundreds of high-level female executives, leaders, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs. Each were very talented and successful women. The most successful of these women, those that endlessly leveled-up again and again, all share some very specific traits. Those same traits ironically were most often missing in their in their peers who were not seeing the same level of growth.
As Jim Rohn so eloquently shared “success in nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced everyday”. These women all learned and lived this belief. The most interesting part is that the majority of these successful women never saw themselves as successful but instead still a work in progress, continually learning and growing.
Here are 20 things that make them so different:
- They don’t think of themselves as more than anyone. They are truly humble and selfless, putting others ahead of themselves and always willing to help someone else achieve their goals. But do not be fooled into thinking you can take advantage of her or manipulate her, you will quickly find out that is the furthest thing from the truth.
- They set goals and have accountability in life. The most successful women in life have mastered the talent of holding themselves and other accountable to meeting their goals. The women I have worked with have mastered being grace-filled and accountable. Many leaders are one or the other or worst yet, an excuse-maker. They know that lacking the ability to hold yourself or others accountable or worse yet being an excuse-maker is a really quick way to lose the respect of their team.
- They are thankful and filled with gratitude. I was in room full of extremely successful women after we had all been through a really situation. To this day, it still resonates deeply with me how many of us found things to be grateful for in the middle of that situation. Gratitude determines your attitude and your altitude.
- They have extreme integrity. You can be 100% certain that what you see is the authentic person and their word is a solid as gold. She will draw boundaries around herself, refuse job opportunities and even leave high level roles she has held for years, if she needs to choose between it and her integrity. She knows that without integrity, nothing else matters.
- They are passionate, motivated, and driven. Not just about their work and careers but about life in general. The things they choose to invest their time in are purposeful and intentional. They can envision the end goal and work tirelessly with passion to accomplish it. . Dancer Twyla Tharp wrote “no one is born with skill. It is developed through exercise, through repetition, through a blend of learning and reflection that’s both painstaking and rewarding. And it takes time.”
- They are not “Yes” people. Strong women often get labeled with less than kind words. Often because they have such high integrity. They will not conform and tell people what they want to hear. They will tell people what they need to hear. Anything less would be uncaring in their eyes.
- They accept and even expect failures. They are willing to take big risks and know with those risks comes the potential to fail. Failure is simply an opportunity to learn for successful women. The only real failure in her eyes is the failure to start or to try. Those hurt far worse than trying and pivoting ever will.
- They give themselves permission to not do everything. Arianna Huffington has spoken about how she finally allowed herself to cross unrealistic goals off her lifelong “to do” list. This one ties directly into the next trait.
- They say No to a lot of things. Successful women value their time. They will not say either yes or no out of guilt. They are comfortable saying no if whatever is asked of them does not align with their goals, values, priorities, or schedule.
- They know that life is many different facets all rolled together. They understand that too much of anything and lack of something else will create a life out of balance. They have learned systems and tools to evaluate their whole lives and to make course corrections when needed. Most successful women I have worked with have found their live out of balance more than once. This is skill takes time and is a wash, rinse and repeat process.
- They care greatly what other people think but in a very different way than most other people. They care that they model integrity, resilience, and empathy for those that follow in their footsteps. Yet, they don’t do it for the accolades or to be liked. It is done because it is who they are and they refuse to live out of alignment with their true self. It also helps others see that it is possible to live with these core values and be successful.
- They are not conflict avoidant or passive-aggressive. Truly successful women will have a conversation directly with a person if they are concerned or upset with them. They will never shy away from the tough conversation or talk about the person behind their back. They understand that those behaviors lack integrity and trustworthiness and are not part of the fabric of truly successful people. The more successful a woman becomes the less tolerance they show towards conflict avoidant or passive-aggressive people.
- They are okay being a C student at times. They realize that being in action and moving forward is more important than staying stuck until something is perfect and safe. Please don’t misunderstand, all successful women know when they have to bring their A+ game but they also know that being in action all along the way will give you the opportunities that truly require an “A” game. Successful women know that perfectionism keeps you from moving forward, makes you more critical of yourself, and leads to unhappiness.
- They believe they can. The truth is that all successful women have set a goal, ignored the negative talk from others and inside their own mind, and continued to believe. As Henry Ford say, whether you think you can or you can’t you are always right.
- They have true partnerships with a significant other. Successful women know that their careers are demanding, their schedules are full and they need support. For some successful women, this means that they choose not to marry. For others, it means that they marry people who are truly supportive, someone who is their cheerleader and will be a true partner in life.
- They genuinely care about their team. They take the time to share feedback with their team, celebrating things well done. They never take credit for their teams work instead proudly give credit where credit is due. To the flip side, they also don’t pass the blame when something goes wrong.
- They make time for themselves. They have a morning routine that is full of self-care. They start each day with the routine. Whether it be an exercise bike, listening to a podcast, journaling, doing yoga, reading, praying or mediating, they always put themselves first for at least 15 minutes.
- They surround themselves with a tribe of other successful people. They fully understand that you become like the five people you spend the most time around. This motivates successful women to spend time with other amazing women. As odd as this may sound, truly successful women are thrilled when they are no where near the smartest person in the room. They know that means that experience will help them to grow. The whole tribe rises together. Give yourself the gift of surrounding yourself with the most successful women you know.
- They know that without stepping outside your comfort zone, you never grow. They know that if there something new they want to do, they have to get comfortable with stepping outside of their comfort zone. The most successful women learn to lean into the excited side of the simultaneous scared and excited cycle.
- They know and accept that they will always be human! Fears will come, facing them head-on is just her norm now. She also knows that she has an inner-critic. She learned the value of surrounding herself with a great tribe that helps her grow and relies on a coach to support her. No different than every really successful athlete, she is always working on her inner and outer game.
I am humbled to have had the opportunity to work with, coach, and support the development of so many really amazing senior leaders, executives, and highly successful women over the past 20+ years. What are other traits that highly successful women in your circles have in common? Please share them with us in the comment below.
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