“Keep Your Ego Under Control”: Words Of Wisdom From Top Women Executives

December 14, 2015  |  
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Oprah. Iman. Mellody Hobson.  The following women are entrepreneurs, leaders and magnates at the top of their respective industries who have broken barriers and helped pave the way for countless women.  Read on for their words of wisdom on everything from being authentic to dealing with discomfort and the secrets behind their iconic, multimillion-dollar brands.

Cathy Hughes

CEO and founder of Radio One and television network TV One, Cathy Hughes has defied the odds on more than one occasion.  In an interview with the Women’s Leadership Exchange, Hughes stated, “It is essential to maintain your spiritual side.  I am a praying woman and am public about this because it acknowledges a force outside of one’s self.  Too often, business owners allow money and success to become their ‘god,’ and that certainly is not a way that I think success should be defined.”

Desiree Rogers

Former White House Social Secretary turned CEO of Johnson Publishing, Rogers has been featured on MadameNoire on several occasions.  When pursuing your career and following your dreams, she encourages people to do something you’re really passionate about.  “You can’t fake it.”

Dara Richardson-Heron

The CEO of YWCA, Richardson-Heron is deeply committed to racial justice and empowering women.  In a New York Times interview, she stated, “One of the things I see sometimes is that women mistake words for voice. They feel that because they have a seat at the table and they say something, that’s good. But it’s important for women to know that having a voice really means having a track record of success and accomplishments, so that people want to listen to what you have to say, because you’re saying something of value. So use your voice, but use it strategically.

Another piece of advice is to stand up for what you believe in. As I did with the person who spoke to me about how I dress, you have to take a stand. You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say: ‘This aligns with my values. This aligns with my opinion of who I want to be, and my personal legacy.’ A lot of women allow things to happen because they worry that if they take a stand, it’s going to derail them. But if you don’t take a stand, it is going to derail you personally, because you’re not going to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘This is who I am.’ I think it impacts your authenticity.”

Mellody Hobson

President of Ariel Investments and Chairwoman of the Board of Directors at DreamWorks Animation, Hobson told Entrepreneur, “If we can learn to deal with our discomfort and just relax into it we’ll have a better life.”


Model, founder and CEO of her self-titled cosmetics empire, Iman said she almost lost her business twice because she was trying to “compete with the Joneses.”  One thing she has learned?  The importance of asking for help.  “You will not believe what will happen when you simply reach out and ask for help,” the mogul said in an interview with StyleCaster. “Ask to be mentored by other women executives. Of course, make sure you’re asking the right people! But don’t be afraid to ask for help. Coco reached out to me once over Twitter and I responded. And now I say I want to be Coco Rocha when I grow up!”


From her beloved talk show to her website and Super Soul Sunday OWN lineup, Oprah has long encouraged us all to live our best lives.  She shared some of her beliefs about how to do that with the Huffington Post: “I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.”

Rosalind Brewer

A Spelman grad who has twice been named one of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” by Forbes, Brewer became the first woman and African-American to lead a Walmart division when she became the CEO of Sam’s Club. Her business advice, according to AY Mag?  “Be agile, but never compromise core values, no matter the immediate pressure for results. Strategies must change over time as business conditions migrate. Keep your ego under control: you are not the business. You’re just the leader at the time.”

Lisa Opoku

Managing Director of Goldman Sachs’ Asia Securities Division, Opoku shared some insight with The Glass Hammer on what she’s teaching her daughter about the importance of being ambitious: “Early in my career I found it hard to say no to certain meetings. Now, I am much more careful about how I spend my time. Women also tend to have a lot of guilt about being unable to handle everything perfectly. I had an excellent coach named Dr. Susan Mistler who told me, ‘You just have to stop feeling guilty. You choose to feel guilty. It is your decision to stop.’ Now when my daughter asks me why I have to go to work I use it as an opportunity to encourage her to be ambitious about her future instead of feeling guilty.”

Serena Williams

At this year’s Glamour Women of the Year Awards, tennis champion Serena Williams, who like big sis Venus has her own clothing line (Signature Statement collection), stated, “The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous: be strong, be extremely kind, and above all be humble.”

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