What makes an exceptional female entrepreneur and business leader?

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“Who runs the world? Girls.”

According to Beyoncé at least. And we’re certainly not going to argue with her. And it is the natural pecking order, after all woman creates man. But oh that this were true. 

As proud feminists, it’s the view that both Amanda Davie and Catherine Smith champion in their work at Equal Talent, helping female entrepreneurs and leaders harness their innate talents to succeed in business, break through the glass ceiling and claim their place on the board.

 But hold on a minute, before we lose readers who think we are losing our grip on inclusivity and shutting out men, we should refocus on the topic in hand: leadership, and specifically, women in leadership. 

What we have to say in this blog about the skills required to be an exceptional leader applies to both women and men. It’s just that women, who on the whole naturally have more emotional intelligence than men, are better equipped with these soft skills so critical to exceptional business success. 

That’s not to say that men don’t have their own unique skills that make them equally outstanding business leaders. Dare we suggest that, perhaps, men could work on developing their own EQ to help them become better leaders?   

The four ingredients that make an exceptional leader

When she was asked to speak at an event for “Exceptional Female Entrepreneurs”, sponsored and hosted by Haysmacintyre, it started Amanda thinking about what makes an exceptional entrepreneur and business leader, male or female, in the first place. 

As she began listing out the ‘ingredients’ – or values – needed by entrepreneurs and most commonly found in female entrepreneurs, she came up with her four Cs for success.


Exceptional leaders have the courage not to be scared about what other people think. The courage to be authentic, to show emotional intelligence and to show vulnerability. We recommend you read Brené Brown’s work on this subject, starting with her amazing TED Talk: “The Power Of Vulnerability”.


Exceptional leaders show warmth, respect, kindness and benevolence; when they see suffering they want to help. The business world is tough and there is much stress and anxiety, those leaders who empathise, who don’t accept the status quo and who have their employees’ backs are the great ones.


Exceptional leaders understand that “we’re in it together”. It is rarely just a job to an exceptional leader but a journey that everyone in the team is on together.

Exceptional women leaders and entrepreneurs seek close professional connections, don’t feel threatened by one another and, in fact, support and empower ‘the sisterhood’ towards success. 

Conversely, women who criticise other women, turn their backs on other women and abuse positions of authority or influence to tell women they’re not good enough are beyond contempt, in our book. 

As Amanda’s friend and mentor Mary Keane-Dawson said on a women’s networking panel: “those women will burn in hell”. Amanda’s personally keeping a little black book with these women’s names in it, so feel free to let her know if you have any names to add to Satan’s register.


Exceptional leaders understand that in order to excel and to succeed they must create time for self-care and regular recovery. This can take the form of ‘pauses’ throughout the day – time to reflect, breath and be in the present. They can range from a walk around the block, a cup of tea away from your desk, a run before work or a yoga session, or even a whole week’s retreat every year. 

Companies are historically poor at overtly encouraging or prioritising recovery time. So what happens? Thrive turns to survive, which turns to burnout or inertia. Therefore, we have to take it upon ourselves to take great care of ourselves – we can’t rely on anyone else to do it for us.

Women are different to men – it is biologically proven – and we should make no apology for being so, in life or in business. 

Successful organisations need more senior female executives not because equality per se is important, but because of what human nature demands: humanity. 

Exceptional leaders are courageous, compassionate and supportive. They are leaders who win not just the race but hearts and minds, too. We know which kind of leader we would rather have on our team. 

Ending where we started, we’ll give the final word to our fellow women’s champion, Queen Bey: “My persuasion can build a nation. Endless power, our love we can devour”.

If you want more exceptional leaders working to lead and grow your people and business, get in touch to explore how you can get started on the road to success.

Equal Talent are committed to helping organisations create better, fairer and more inclusive workplaces for everyone

We’d love to help you.

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