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October 16, 2021

In their earliest days building World Wrestling Entertainment, Linda McMahon and her husband shared a desk.

The duo worked to expand WWE from a small regional operation to a publicly traded global enterprise with more than 800 employees. Until 2009, McMahon served as CEO. In 2014, she co-founded an event-based mentoring business, Women’s Leadership LIVE, which aims to support and educate women entrepreneurs.

This week, McMahon was tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the federal agency in charge of representing America’s small businesses, the Small Business Administration.

As she went from sharing a desk to a potential Cabinet position, McMahon learned how to be a leader. Here are the traits she’s identified as crucial for anyone who wants to do the same.

1. Be hands-on


“My number one philosophy for leadership is leadership by example,” says McMahon, according to the transcript of an interview published on her website. “If you are not willing to do it yourself, how can you show others how to do it?”

2. Be inexhaustible

“You have to have a work ethic. It is always 24/7. It is a lot of sweat equity and it is a little bit of Lady Luck,” she says.

McMahon has demonstrated resilience in her own work life. Today, WWE is a massively successful public company. But she experienced some bleak moments along the way.

“We went bankrupt one time and lost everything. When I tell that story at my Women’s Leadership LIVE conferences, people are shocked. I mean, our house was auctioned off and the car repossessed in the driveway. We had to start over again,” says McMahon, according to the transcript of an interview published on her website.

Optimism is the ultimate definition of a leader.
- Linda McMahon

3. Be positive

McMahon says that keeping a positive attitude is key.

“Optimism is the ultimate definition of a leader. A leader has to look optimistically at what is ahead while not ignoring the challenges that must be overcome. Those challenges are in government, politics, world leadership, and even in community life,” according to the transcript of an interview McMahon did with LEADERS Magazine.

According to McMahon, “Leaders step forward to say, I recognize that the challenges are there, but I also believe I have the skills, foresight, and vision to help us get through those challenges, but I can’t do it alone.”