The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Women Leaders™

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Leslie Grossman, Faculty Director, Women’s Leadership Programs, GW Center for Excellence in Public Leadership & Founder, Her Circle Leadership

Super-successful women leaders have learned to eliminate the good girl habits which rewarded them in their teens but stalled them in their professional lives. From research, executive coaching and experience I have identified the new habits that propel women forward to achieve their personal visions of success without abandoning their values.

With an acknowledgement to Stephen Covey for his 1989 book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, here’s a brand new version I created for women which compares the antiquated good girl habits with their transformation into habits that level the playing field for women leaders.

Habit 1: Focus on Your Vision

Good Girl: Be Patient. Take what comes your way. People will recognize your hard work

Woman Leader: Identify where you want to be in the future; Go after what you want; even if you believe you are not quite ready

Habit 2: Effective Communication

Good Girl: Be lady-like, quiet and polite; speak when you are spoken to. let people come to you; don’t be assertive or bold

Woman Leader: Speak up and speak out concisely; influence and assert your leadership with a leadership voice without being aggressive

Habit 3: Leadership Presence

Good Girl: Take a back seat at the table; be modest and exclusively a ‘we’ manager

Woman Leader: Look, walk and talk like a leader; take credit with ‘I’ when it is you who achieved it, without forsaking the ‘we’ moments as well; engage and inspire your team to achieve their goals and yours

Habit 4: Forge Trusted Relationships

Good Girl: Stick with your comfortable circle of colleagues

Woman Leader: Consistently develop relationships with influencers and thought-leaders within and outside your organization; sharing, supporting, listening, learning, being curious about them and contributing to them as well

Habit 5: Confidence

Good Girl: Feeling worthy requires being perfect 100% of the time

Woman Leader: Possess the belief that you will succeed and know that others believe that, too, without the pressure of making everything 100%+ perfect to prove it time and time again

Habit 6: Emotional Intelligence

Good Girl: React quickly to troubling work challenges and dynamics with hurt feelings, anger or fear; difficulty managing one’s emotions

Woman Leader: Monitor one’s own and other’s emotions and integrate this with intelligence and empathy to manage, lead and collaborate effectively with one’s team, peers and leaders of the organization

Habit 7: Courage

Good Girl: Operate in one’s comfort zone, participating and contributing only in areas where the results are fairly predictable with a lack of interest in trying anything beyond the routine or appearing risky

Woman Leader: Eagerly welcome new ideas, new challenges, new learnings, new opportunities and change even when there is a risk of failure


Explore the 7 Habits for Highly Effective Women Leaders and more at the upcoming 3-day Executive Women’s Leadership Program from April 15-17, 2020 and October 21-23. For information contact Leslie Grossman at lesliegrossman@email.gwu.edu.

Leslie Grossman is the author, Link Out: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections, and a Senior ellow and Faculty Director at the The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership, The Executive Women’s Leadership Program; and is an Executive Leadership Coach

Featured Experience: Executive Women’s Leadership Program

While gender diversity is recognized as a hallmark of the most successful organizations, studies – including “Women Rising: the Unseen Barriers” reported in HBR* – reveal that gender bias, continues to exist in most organizations.

GW CEPL’s Executive Women’s Leadership Program, which runs from April 15-17, 2020 will provide participants with transformational communication skills, executive presence, and powerful leadership strategies while transforming mindset and behaviors that may hold women back from both contributing fully and moving up in the organization.

Participants will have the opportunity to network and build community with guest speakers and participating women leaders throughout the three days in Alexandria, VA.

Our confirmed set of guest speakers thus far includes:

1) Ava J. Abramowitz, Professor, GWU Law School, Negotiation

2) Barbara DeRosa-Joynt, Division Chief for Biodiversity, Office of Conservation and Water, OES/ECW

3) Hayley Foster, Speaker Coach & Short Talk Expert

4) Katharine Manning, President and Founder of Blackbird DC; Attorney with expertise in trauma & victimization

5) Wanda Peters, Deputy Director for Planning & Business Management, Aerospace Engineer, NASA, Goddard

6) Judy Schramm, President of ProResource, LinkedIn expert

7) Grace Speights, Chair, Board of Trustees, The George Washington University; Leader, Labor Law Employment Practice, Morgan, Lewis Bockius

8) Carrie Valiant, Partner, Board of Directors, Epstein Becker Green Law,Cochair, Healthcare Fraud Practice

Click here to learn more about the Executive Women’s Leadership Program


The Center of Excellence in Public Leadership at George Washington University (GW CEPL) offers programs for women at every level of their leadership journey to help address the early socialized habits, as well as the workplace and life challenges that often hold women back from pursuing increased responsibility, while supporting their growth and development.

Live online programs are known for their interactive discussions and networking among the participants, as well as its critical, career-changing content. Click here to learn more:

Women Leaders on the Rise Program (#WRISE) gives high-potential women leaders at the start of their careers the tools to enable management success, while addressing limiting beliefs that may be holding them back.Executive Women’s Leadership Program (#EWLP) is designed for experienced executives who have potential for greater leadership responsibilities. Topics covered include executive presence, negotiations, resilience, growth mindset and more!

Global Women’s Leadership Program (#GWLP) provides game-changing leadership strategies that will transform your mindset and expand your sphere of influence as a woman leader. Program is designed for global executives.

3 Comments

  1. Tori N Wilson on at 9:06 AM

    This article is very precise and encouraging. I could hang these sayings on my wall

  2. Anita O'Malley on at 10:45 AM

    Love this! I’ll be sure to share.

  3. Laura Thurston on at 11:56 AM

    Total love this, Anita, Thanks for sharing 🙂

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