The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Women Leaders

Leslie Grossman, Senior Fellow & Faculty, The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public 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

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 develops relationships with influencers and thought-leaders within and outside your organization; sharing, supporting, listening, learning and contributing to 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: Reacts quickly to troubling work challenges and dynamics with hurt feelings, anger or fear; difficulty managing one’s emotions.

Woman Leader: Monitors one’s own and other’s emotions and integrates 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: Operates 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 welcomes new ideas, new challenges, new learnings, new opportunities and change even when there is a risk of failure

About the Author: Leslie Grossman lives her purpose – developing, coaching and transforming women executives and entrepreneurs to achieve their personal visions of success.  Her focus is on supporting and training women to become effective communicators with leadership presence and confidence and to build trusted relationships throughout their careers.

Founder of the Women’s Leadership Exchange, a national conference program from 2001 – 2010, a former business owner, and a Chair for Vistage International, Leslie is an executive leadership coach, trainer, speaker and facilitator of groups and advisory boards.  She presents workshops to many organizations, including LATAM Business School, Impact Leadership 21 and Leading with Edge; and is a senior fellow and on the faculty of The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership. She is the author of two books, “Link Out: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections “(Wiley) and “Sellsation: How Companies Can Capture Today’s Hottest Market: Women Business Owners and Executives “(WPE Press). Her TEDx Talk: “The Value of Having an Entourage” is highly viewed and espouses how the most innovative ideas and results come from collaborating among trusted allies.  She can be reached at




  1. Tori N Wilson on September 13, 2018 at 9:06 am

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

  2. Anita O'Malley on November 12, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Love this! I’ll be sure to share.

  3. Laura Thurston on November 14, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Total love this, Anita, Thanks for sharing 🙂