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Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Top Performer?

women in business

As you start and grow your business, it’s important to develop the skills needed to be a good leader. But for women in business, showing leadership can be more challenging than for men as they often have to overcome stereotypes that women lack leadership ability. What personal characteristics make you more likely to succeed as a leader, either in the corporate world or in your own business?

Caliper studied 85 women executives (senior vice presidents and above) who managed functional areas of businesses, such as marketing, sales or R&D. The study uncovered six personality traits that higher-performing women in business shared:

  1. Assertiveness: Having a straightforward communication style
  2. Aggressiveness: Bringing in a constructive, emotional element to move projects forward
  3. Empathy: Being able to understand and relate to other people’s feelings
  4. Ego-Strength: Being resilient and able to overcome challenges
  5. Stress Tolerance: Feeling comfortable dealing with high-stress environments
  6. Energy: Having vitality and enthusiasm for one’s work

Overall, the study reports, high-achieving women in business are action-oriented risk-takers with the ability to solve complex problems.

Interestingly, these characteristics “closely match what are universally considered to be male leadership trait,” the study’s authors write. Does that mean women leaders are trying to be more like “men” to be perceived as leaders? Or do people with these natural traits end up as leaders?

Whatever the answer, the study reports that having these traits helped women in business succeed as leaders. Resilience, energy and empathy were especially important for helping women leaders overcome the challenges they faced dealing with others’ stereotypes of or prejudices against them.

What traits hinder becoming a leader? According to the study, women in business who have a negative reaction to stress, want to follow the rules, are less assertive, lack empathy and want to be accommodating to others are likely to have difficulty in upper management leadership roles. These traits make it more difficult to make decisions, take charge and handle the stress that inevitably comes with being a small business owner or manager.

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Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.