There’s not one quality that helps the most powerful women in the world climb to the peak of power in their industries. From political superpowers to tech titans, Forbes’ ranking of the “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” runs the gamut. It includes everyone from Oprah Winfrey and Ivanka Trump to Angela Merkel and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. And ranges in age from their 90’s (Queen Elizabeth II) to their 20’s (Taylor Swift). It’s clear no two women are the same. But, what personality qualities do they share that helps set them apart?
To find out, our friends at Porch.com used IBM’s Watson™ Personality Insights API to examine speeches, interviews, and even social media commentary. This helped to decipher the more intrinsic elements of their personalities. Read on for a more intimate look at some of the most powerful female personalities on the Forbes’ list.
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According to the Personality Insights model, there are five core characteristics that help define how a person engages with the world. These “Big Five” include agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, emotional range, and openness. Each consist of personality traits that help individualize each person’s values and actions.
Across Forbes’ list of the 100 most powerful women in the world, openness was the most common personality trait. It is described as “the extent to which a person is open to experiencing different activities”. Openness includes a person’s imagination, artistic interests, and overall intellectual curiosity. The two women who most personified this trait are Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief at The Economist, and Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm at Disney.
Emotional range and conscientiousness were also some of the most prevailing “Big Five” traits. Such as those personified most clearly by women like Safra Catz (the co-CEO of Oracle) and Nikki Haley (the Indian-American ambassador to the U.N.). And while agreeableness wasn’t the most prominent “Big Five” trait, Beyoncé, Anna Wintour, and Oprah Winfrey are still using compassion and cooperation to their advantage.
Faces of Personality Facets
There’s no single set of personality traits that helped propel these powerful women to their positions.
Among the most common personality traits identified by the Personality Insights API, five appeared more often than others:
- Intellect: As a part of openness, intellect describes a person’s curiosity. It also included an ability to think in symbols and abstractions rather than more linear modes of thought.
- Cautiousness: Continued from the conscientious trait, cautiousness is defined as the ability to think through things carefully before acting.
- Sympathy: As an extension of a person’s agreeableness, sympathy refers to the feeling of compassion toward others.
- Liberalism: As another trait of openness, liberalism means a readiness to challenge authority and convention.
- Activity level: As an extension of extraversion, activity level describes the attitude of people who lead fast-paced, busy lives. They approach their daily activities with a heightened sense of energy and quickness.
While many of the women on the list exhibited one or more of these traits, others embodied them more fully.
A Cut Above the Rest
From the politically savvy to tech giants and entertainment superstars, the path to power for the top 100 women on Forbes’ list is unique. While what has helped them get to where they are today is different, the personality traits they share aren’t. From Oprah Winfrey to Theresa May, they share characteristics such as intellect and liberalism (challenging the status quo). Even if they execute them differently. Each of these women proves that even in male-dominated industries, breaking away from the norm can pay off in the end!
A version of this article was originally posted on Porch.com.