Forbes: Resilience and action define powerful women

Kitty McConnell

Moira Forbes has worked with the world's most influential female executives and entrepreneurs. The president and publisher of ForbesWoman says that, despite their unique stories, they share a common trait.

"Their one defining quality is resilience," says Forbes. "What I've seen uniting these women is their ability to bend and not break in the face of adversity.

"Some of the world's most powerful women will cite their setbacks, will cite their failures as the most formative experiences that have propelled their successes," she adds. The women she's interviewed, from HP CEO Meg Whitman to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, have been "extraordinary mentors" in her own success.

When Forbes isn't profiling high-level executives for Forbes, she's hosting Forbes' annual Women's Summit and speaking at live events across the country. Forbes will be in town on July 18 to deliver the keynote address at the 2014 Visionary Awards, hosted by the Columbus chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

"I'm excited to be part of the event. I love the opportunity these gatherings create to connect with other women and hear their stories," says Forbes. The NAWBO awards, sponsored by Columbus CEO, will recognize one woman business owner and the award finalists who have achieved professional success while at the same time contributing to their communities and to initiatives for women in business.

Forbes says that she sees in successful business women, from the highest levels to budding entrepreneurs a "bias for action." Forbes first heard the phrase from HP's Whitman, an executive she believes exemplifies what it means to be a "power woman" today.

"That bias for action, I think, is critical for all leaders today. The ability to move quickly, to adapt, to learn and grow from experience, is also a critical factor," says Forbes. On the flip side, the risk of being perceived as "too aggressive" is a concern Forbes hears frequently from female executives.

"I think there's a difference between being liked and respected. I think that's something that women sometimes have a hard time with," says Forbes. Executive-level leaders need to balance their personal leadership style and bias for action with an understanding that coming across as "aggressive or brusque" may undermine the ability to lead, she says.

"As a leader you have to be able to connect and engage people. You have to inspire people to follow your vision, and this goes for men and women. If you're not connecting with people and you're turning them off, for whatever reason, you won't be able to lead them."