14 Powerful Women Tell Us Which Executive They Most Admire

October 17, 2018, 3:36 PM UTC

As we put together our annual Most Powerful Women ranking, we wondered, who inspires the women who inspire us? Fourteen women on Fortune‘s 2018 list told us which other CEO or executive—outside their industry—they admire most. It’s a surprising and diverse list, though there is one name that comes up again: Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors.

Marillyn Hewson, Chairman, President, and CEO, Lockheed Martin
No. 1

“I admire Anne Mulcahy. She was a leader who became CEO during a particularly difficult time for Xerox. When she took over, she strongly engaged her customers, made bold decisions, and led her company with distinction.”

Judith McKenna, President and CEO, Walmart International
No. 14

“I really admire Carolyn McCall, who is currently the CEO at ITV plc in the UK. I think of her as a leader who is courageous, innovative, smart, and clear. All of these are important attributes to successfully lead organizations and teams. During her time as CEO of easyJet, they increased value significantly, which I believe is because she set a clear business strategy based on providing value and building out a broader customer proposition. She stayed true to the strategy while being innovative and listening to easyJet passengers. Under her leadership, easyJet was voted the best low-cost airline in Europe. Now she’s using her innovative spirit to create change at ITV and take them into the digital age.”

Ann Marie Campbell, EVP, U.S. Stores, Home Depot
No. 16

“I have great admiration for Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors. I’m so impressed by her rise in a male-dominated industry, as well as how she navigated the 2014 recall crisis at GM during her first year as CEO.”

Pam Nicholson, President and CEO, Enterprise Holdings
No. 17

“I greatly admire fellow St. Louis CEO Diane Sullivan [CEO of footwear company Caleres]—she is truly one of a kind, full of drive and passion, and also really fun and down to earth. Diane’s bottom line at Caleres speaks for itself, as she produces amazing results year after year in the highly competitive fashion industry.”

Leanne Caret, President and CEO, Defense, Space & Security, and EVP, Boeing
No. 23

“Laura Bush. I’ve been fortunate to meet her and I’m so impressed with how she has served others throughout her life. Her advocacy for women and girls around the world is truly inspiring. Everybody knows what she did as first lady. What she’s doing today with the George W. Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative is a wonderful next chapter, not only for her but for all the people she will help. She is an incredible leader and a true force for good.”

Geisha Williams, President and CEO, PG&E
No. 24

“Mary Barra of General Motors. She’s a female CEO in a male-dominated field who started on the front lines and then rose through the ranks of one of the most well-known companies in the nation and an icon of the auto industry. She’s not only demonstrated that she can lead in a crisis, she’s done it with grace and effectiveness.”

Vicki Hollub, President and CEO, Occidental Petroleum
No. 28

“Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin.”

Beth Ford, President and CEO, Land O’Lakes
No. 30

“Satya Nadella from Microsoft addressed our farmer-members last year and I was struck by the way he is connecting technology to impacting the world by anchoring his company in a sense of purpose and identity.”

Julie Sweet, CEO North America, Accenture
No. 32

“It’s a tie between Mary Barra and [Kaiser Permanente CEO] Bernard Tyson—both are very successful self-made leaders and stewards for their companies and communities. They lead from the front with integrity, purpose and compassion.”

Michele Buck, President and CEO, Hershey
No. 42

“I have great admiration for Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce. Marc is an inspiration to me. He is the epitome of a visionary with a keen imagination and an ability to look forward and see what others don’t. He then applies his savvy entrepreneurial business acumen and bent to risk taking to make bold moves and take action to advance solutions. He does all that while valuing people and culture, being one of the most admired CEOs by his people, and while being a leading philanthropist who uses his business platform to deliver on a deeper purpose for himself and his company. He has used his voice and influence to advance gender pay parity, to defend LGBTQ rights, and in support of many important causes.”

Carolyn Tastad, Group President, North America, Procter & Gamble
No. 44

“If we stay outside of the CPG industry, someone I admire greatly is [IMF managing director and chairwoman] Christine Lagarde. Highly accomplished. Clearly breaking glass ceilings. Flourishing despite many barriers that have been put in her way. But what I admire the most is her intellect, her tenacity, and her determination to speak truth (as she would say) even when unpopular. She has been a strong advocate for women’s representation, for diversity of thought, for our planet, and for people in general.”

Mary Dillon, CEO, Ulta Beauty
No. 45

“Andy McKenna, chairman emeritus of McDonald’s, is someone I admire greatly. He has done more to diversify board rooms in Chicago and across America than anyone I know. Andy is incredibly generous with his relationships and experience to help the next generation of leaders grow and lead. For me personally, he was incredibly supportive when I became the first C-level female leader hired from the outside at McDonald’s. His support continued when I became CEO of U.S. Cellular and then Ulta Beauty. He has also been instrumental in introducing me to the business community in ways I would have never known otherwise. I not only admire him, but am incredibly grateful for his mentorship.”

Helena Foulkes, CEO, Hudson’s Bay Company
No. 46

“Drew Faust, former president of Harvard. As a former professor of history, Drew surprised many people by becoming a change agent and president of Harvard. The qualities I admire most in her are her ability to listen deeply and her steadiness.”

Kathryn Marinello, President and CEO, Hertz Global Holdings
No. 50

“Mary Barra, General Motors’ CEO. I’ve had the pleasure to work with Mary. She is an authentic, accessible leader. She is confident in making tough decisions. And her priority is long-term value creation over short-term results, which is always the sign of a courageous leader.”

Contributors: Kristen Bellstrom, Grace Donnelly, Matt Heimer, Emma Hinchliffe, Aric Jenkins, Beth Kowitt, Monica Rodriguez, Lisa Marie Segarra, Lucinda Shen, Jonathan Vanian, Phil Wahba, Jen Wieczner.

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