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Malala Yousafzai

21 Leadership Quotes from Inspiring Women

Motivational quotes from inspiring women

Malala Yousafzai

Our selection of inspiring quotes from women leaders show the importance of honesty, courage, impact, and decisive action in leadership.

Such qualities are among the many required to be a rounded and effective leader. (See also What Makes a Good Leader in 2021 - The Definitive Guide

But it's still an unfair playing field....

The latest government data shows:

  • Women hold 14.6% of chair positions and 28.1% of directorships.
  • Women represent 18.3% of CEOs and 32.5% of key management personnel.
  • 30.2% of boards and governing bodies have no female directors. By contrast, only 0.4% had no male directors.

"Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world" is the theme for this year's International Women's Day.

So, here's a selection of 21 of the best quotes that we hope will inspire you to leadership at your chosen highest level. 

"Well hear me now. Using my voice, amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced. Let's make some noise, Australia." - Grace Tame, Australian of the Year.

“I think realizing that you’re not alone, that you are standing with millions of your sisters around the world is vital.” -Malala Yousafzai

"When people feel that they are able to bring their emotional truth to the workplace with leaders who are compassionate and curious rather than leaders who want the answers, that is a first building block of emotional agility…” -Susan David

“Self-awareness and self-love matter. Who we are is how we lead.” -Brene Brown

"The biggest shame trigger at work is the fear of irrelevance...the most common response to the fear and shame of irrelevance is amour." -Brene Brown

Brene Brown Aus

“Courage is not staying quiet about things that make us uncomfortable.” -Brene Brown

"If you want to lift the performance of the organisation, you have to lift message to my team was always meet my bar, and that bar would constantly be moved up." -Indra Nooyi

"Every day, you have the power to choose our better history — by opening your hearts and minds, by speaking up for what you know is right." -Michelle Obama

Embrace what you don’t know, especially in the beginning, because what you don’t know can become your greatest asset. It ensures that you will absolutely be doing things different from everybody else.” -Sara Blakely

 “If you don’t have an evolving growth strategy, then you and your team are just driving around the block. You may be doing well, but you’re not going anywhere.” -Shannon Byrne Susko

“As a child growing up, I dreamt big. Most people would have looked at an Aboriginal girl from the Territory, where the statistics…point to every reason why I should not succeed. But I was determined to be successful.” - Nova Peris 

 "My mentor taught me when an opportunity is presented to you, you look at it, and you FEEL it, and ask yourself Does this opportunity light me up? Does it fill me with a sense of curiosity? Does it excite me? If it does, hell yeah, I’m involved." -Layne Beachley

"On my own I will just create, and if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, I’ll create something else. I don’t have any limitations on what I think I could do or be." -Oprah Winfrey

“Everyone gets knocked down in life. What matters is whether you get back up and keep going. (It’s a) lesson drilled in from an early age by my mother. It’s served me well and it’s universal." -Hillary Clinton

 “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” - Ayn Rand

"I tell my daughters to have their voice in this world, and it became clear I needed to role-model that." -Melinda Gates

 "Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you." -Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"I would rather be honest about what I didn’t know rather than pretend like I knew everything. It was actually a huge inflection point in my own learning, because if I could very quickly admit to someone that I was having a meeting with that I didn’t understand what they were talking about or if I was sitting in a room in a presentation and honestly just didn’t have the first clue of what this term was and I raised my hand and asked, it made it so much easier for me down the road and I didn’t have to pretend like I was the smart person in the room." -Julie Zhuo

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence." -Sheryl Sandberg

"You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it." -Maya Angelou

"We can’t pray or wish for diversity. We need intervention, attention, mentoring and development of those minorities to ensure all are represented in our organisations." -Indra Nooyi


A pithy quote can't hide the statistics that women are still under-represented in leadership roles, and over-represented in job losses during the pandemic.

  • McKinsey has estimated women’s jobs were 1.8 times more vulnerable due to COVID-19 than those of their male counterparts. Although making up well under half the global workforce, women account for over half the jobs lost during the pandemic.

However, many of these leadership quotes show that resilience, not taking 'no' for an answer, and becoming your best self can only help to increase your chances of securing work and breaking through any glass ceiling you may find there.

If you'd like to increase your professional development in 2021 why not consider becoming a member of The Growth Faculty? One membership, unlimited access to 30 live virtual Time For Transformation masterclasses. Plus, the best discounts on live virtual events and year-round leadership content On Demand with videos, podcasts and book summaries. Join a community of knowledge seekers who are inspired by the best. Access $4350+ value for just $298 AUD. See who's up next.

This blog was originally written by Lancey Morris in 2020 and updated by The Growth Faculty staff writers in 2021.