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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

3 Essential Traits For Badass Women In Business

How many female leaders have inspired you? 

Countless leaders have led me in my career. Each has their own traits that make them memorable. But not all have left me with the traits I carry in my leadership today. 

My path to becoming a speaker wasn’t direct. I started as an engineer. I served in the U.S. Navy. I led groups of up to 1,800 people. I was a professor. And I started an engineering business. (I know, my husband jokes that I can’t hold down a job)  In each industry, the leaders that inspired me the most have been women.  

What do they all have in common? They are human first.

Here are 3 essential traits to becoming a badass woman in leadership. 

  1. Authentic Leadership

Authentic leaders build trust

Show your teams who you are behind the CEO and Manager titles. Be a human first. 

The most respected leaders create a receptive working environment. In it, each person feels valued, seen, and heard. And it starts by showing up as yourself. 

Authentic leaders focus on meaningful relationships. These relationships lead to personal and professional growth, collaboration, and shared success. 

When I look back at the women who have inspired me, they are all authentic versions of themselves. They don’t try to put on a pretense or a fake facade just so that people look up to them. 

Instead, they own the qualities they have and use their innate superpowers to connect with their teams, lead with empathy, and challenge the status quo. 


  1. Empathetic Leadership 

The most important leadership skill, to me, is empathy. As a speaker, my role is to connect to my audience. Each individual that is in the room has a different experience and is there for a different reason. When I can show up with empathy and relatability, I am serving my people. 

Empathy is vital because people have their own stresses, problems, and pain points. But at the core, each member of our team is a human. As a leader, we can get to know our team so that we can see when someone is struggling and needs extra support. 

In my time in the Navy, I had 2 female leaders who embodied this trait. The first, Paula Brown, was the first female reserve admiral in the Civil Engineering Corps (CEC). We were part of the 9% of women in the CEC reserves. She was firm and made decisions that were true to herself and were in the best interest of the Corps. And she always remained relatable, human, and personable. 

When I was in Afghanistan, my first boss was a female colonel (now General) Diana Holland. Even though I was her subordinate, she trusted me enough to be candid, real, and honest. That kind of empathy helped both of us realize that we are not alone, outnumbered by our male-counterparts and far away from home in a hostile country. 

Both of these women made their teams feel seen and heard and people wanted to be around them. They were trailblazers with a "Let's try what no one has done before" mentality and they always remained empathetic to the people following them. 

  1. Ability to Be Yourself in Any Situation 

It’s conditioned into us as women to apologize and take on things that are not always our fault. The women who inspire me don’t do this. They aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and what is right. They aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with someone who is challenging them. Being someone who not only stands up for themselves, but for their team is what makes a good leader, a great leader.  

They know who they are, and what they represent, and they never back down from their true potential. 

Showing up as yourself builds confidence. Confidence in your ability to lead removes the fear of owning your decisions. When challenged, confident leaders know who they are and what they do. They aren't afraid to stand up for their decisions or for the little guy. 

That not only strengthens adaptability, quick thinking, and problem-solving. It also inspires individuals who are part of the team to do the same. 

When a leader is confident in themselves, they’re self-aware and open to doing what it takes to be the best leader they can be. 

You’re a badass, female leader.  

Women are underrepresented at work. And there is value in bringing women into male-dominated industries. This is true across the board. But, some industries are especially hard for women to break into. 

I am a woman. I have stepped into leadership in male-dominated industries. I've felt like it is an uphill battle many times. Yet,  when I’ve doubted my ability to succeed, I look to the women who inspire me and am reminded that I can do what I set out to do and I am meant to be where I am.  

Women bring essential traits to business that create diversity and a fresh view that most men may not have. Many women are caring and empathetic visionaries who work to bring people together and help them feel like they belong. 

There are many badass female leaders in my audience. I also work alongside some stellar women. The females in my life are warriors who know their purpose. Their passion fuels them. They know they have a mission to complete. Sometimes it takes failing, committing to growth, and getting back up to truly succeed. True badasses don’t give up.

Are you a badass female leader? Let’s connect! 


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