It's confession time: I've been a fan of Sallie Krawcheck since her Sanford Bernstein days. Under her leadership, it was one of the few Wall Street firms that realized an "independent" research department was not independent if it took its marching orders from the investment banking side. Krawcheck knew that the only thing a research firm has to sell is its reputation for honesty, integrity and intelligence. She guarded Sanford's reputation like a mother lion. When then-New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer sued to create a true Chinese wall between the research and banking sides of the biggest financial firms, Bernstein emerged unscathed in no small part due to Krawcheck's principled stand.

Krawcheck's willingness to take an ethical—although less profitable—stand is one of the qualities that research now shows is a particular strength of women leaders. So is consensus building and negotiation, patience and long-term thinking. That is why diversity of senior teams is now widely acknowledged as something of a secret sauce.

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