Fortune magazine created a “A Most Powerful Women” list (October 6, 2014), which celebrates their successes, and highlights some of the challenges encountered by these transformational leaders.

Alan Murray, Fortune’s Managing Editor says:
It’s no surprise some cynical observers have concluded that the glass ceiling has been replaced by a glass cliff.

Why? Because many of the “most powerful women” are running companies that are in precarious economic situations and could very likely fail. Addressing profits, innovation, and accountability issues will require exceptional leadership skills, and of course, they will need to manage gender biases.

A few of the “Most Powerful Women,” randomly selected:

Indra Nooyi – PepsiCo chairperson and CEO

  • Consistently ranked among the top executives in the world, Nooyi has led the world’s second-largest food and beverage enterprise in a time of extraordinary change. She has increased R&D spending 25%, with a focus on innovation to address rising demands for products that are conducive to healthy living.

Mary Barra – General Motors CEO

  • The first female chief executive officer in a major automotive company, Barra is considered an outstanding technician, and a well-respected leader. As an engineer, she had responsibility for GM’s 11 worldwide brands for their design, program management, and quality improvement efforts. She is known for her approachability and effectiveness, and for her vision. She must now lead the organization through their vehicle recalls and the need to change their corporate culture.

Denise Young Smith – Head of Human Resources at Apple

  • Young Smith champions transparency and communication at Apple, and adds diversity to the leadership team (which is a major fete as most of the 98,000 employees are white males). Some major areas of focus include increasing collaboration, reducing organizational silos, developing talent, and soliciting internal feedback, all fairly foreign to the Apple culture.

Ginni Rometty – IBM Chairman, President, CEO

  • Not only is she the first woman to lead IBM, Rometty has been named in the top leaders list for 3 consecutive years, and is also part of the “Most Powerful Women” list. She’s known for developing strategic partnerships, cost reductions, adding comfort to times of uncomfortable change, and that she has the “right leadership style for the job.”

It’s been noted that collaboration, a talent for listening, and a natural ability to manage interpersonal relationships are just a few of the leadership behaviors women bring to the business world. It’s also been said that “women don’t need to imitate men in order to be persuasive and authoritative, they simply need to be authentic.”

Does your organization include strong female leaders as part of its leadership team?

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