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15 Top Female Founders and CEOs Share Their Best Piece of Business Advice (infographic)

What does it take to build a successful business? Well, just look at the people who have already done it. And that's precisely what OnDeck researchers did when they created a guide outlining the best business secrets from the world's most successful female founders and CEOs.

Find out what they are below!

It's okay not to feel okay

The image of the hard-nosed, combative business exec doesn't jive with how we do business anymore. Cooperation has replaced hostile competition, and soft skills like listening, empathy, and self-awareness are more valuable than a "get it done at all costs" kind of attitude.

Today's best business leaders are never afraid to show their human side, and vulnerability is no longer a sign of weakness. In fact, it actually makes you a better leader. "It's okay to admit what you don't know,'' says Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. "It's okay to ask for help. And it's more than okay to listen to the people you lead."

Facebook CEO and LeanIn founder Sherly Sandberg is another high-flying executive who understands that teamwork really does make the dreamwork. Ask for help when you need it, advises Sandberg, because "trying to do it all and expecting it can all be done exactly right is a recipe for disaster."

Stand your ground when necessary

Women are - generally speaking - more empathetic than men. Empathy is an important emotion that gives us the capacity to feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. People with higher levels of empathy are more likely to negotiate, compromise, and make personal sacrifices for the greater good. These are essential skills for any good business leader, and more empathy in the workplace can make everybody's lives easier.

But there will be times when you have to do what's right for you and your business, even if that means having some uncomfortable conversations. "One of the most challenging things to do is saying no," advises MadeMan founder Janett Liriano. "[But you need to] be willing to walk away from things that cease to align with your values and mission."

Emily Weiss learned the value of pushing back early on in her career. "I learned to push the envelope when it comes to asking questions or making requests,'' recalls the Glossier founder. "[So] if you hear 'that's not possible,' then ask 'what is possible,' instead of just saying thank you and leaving."

Ego is a productivity killer

Expedia Cruises boss Helen Robertson is never afraid to admit that she doesn't have all the answers. As such, she surrounds herself with the people who do. And she advises any aspiring CEO or founder to do the same. "You never need to feel like you have to be the smartest person in the room," says Helen. "Building a good team requires you to hire people that may know more in a certain subject than you do. Find individuals who have a diverse set of skills and experiences and feel free to rely on them for advice."

Despite being the head honcho at one of the biggest companies in the world, PepsiCo. CEO Indra Nooyi always keeps her ego in check. She says, "Just because you're CEO, don't think you've landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach your organization." This growth mindset is an excellent way to improve yourself and your business. Moreover, your team or co-workers will appreciate the effort. A recent survey by TalentLMS revealed that 74% of employers think their managers need some upskill training.

Embrace the challenge

In February 2021 Bumble CEO and Founder Whitney Wolfe Herd became the youngest self-made woman billionaire. However, Herd’s success would not have been possible without a long list of initial failures - or, as she calls them - learning experiences. Failure doesn't signal the end of your journey, believes Herd. Instead, it means you're one step closer to your final goal. So accept that failure can be a good thing and see it as your "propeller toward success."

Advanced Micro Devices CEO Lisa Su is another high achiever who has never been afraid of failing. "Run toward the hardest problems, '' said Su. "This approach has helped me to learn a tremendous amount from both success and failure."

From the outside, success can look effortless. But as Youtube CEO Susan Wojcicki points out, the picture looks very different to those on the inside. Moreover, she believes that embracing the chaos can open your eyes to untapped opportunities. "Rarely are opportunities presented to you in the perfect ways," says Susan. "The good ones are messy, confusing, and hard to recognize. They're risky. They challenge you!"

Planning your way to success

Flickr founder Caterina Fake is a strong believer in planning your way to success. Fake tells business owners to focus on working smarter rather than harder. "Working on the right thing is more important than working hard," says Fake.

Karen Young is another huge advocate of allocating your time and energy effectively. "The simplest time management skill as an entrepreneur comes down to understanding what's most important, and knowing it can change by the day or by the hour."

Set your people free

Former Standard Chartered CEO Rowena Everson hates micromanaging. She prefers to find intelligent people who can work independently. However, you can't do this without understanding what inspires and motivates your employees. And this is something which Armoire boss Ambika Singh highly recommends. "Recognizing how your employees work, and knowing that this takes individual attention, is important to be a successful leader."

Remember why you're doing it

If you love what you do, so will the people working alongside you. "You need unbound enthusiasm for what you're building," says Outdoor Voices Founder Tyler Hanney. “Energy is contagious. Your team and everyone you interact with feels it."

Remembering why you're clocking another 60 hour week is one of the best ways to motivate yourself and your staff. And adjusting your dreams accordingly will keep you going during those really long projects. "I continuously update my dreams," says Cinnamon Co-Founder Miku Hirano. "As I grow, evolve, and learn, so do my dreams."

You can learn more about these business secrets in the infographic below, including how to integrate these winning pieces of advice into your daily routine.

15 Leadership Lessons from Female Founders and CEOs - infographic

Read next: These billionaires had their career breakthrough after the age of 35 (infographic)

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