Women in Business: Learn From the Best of the Best

03/13/2015 12:11 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2015

Marissa Mayer took a lot of flak for her decision to kill Yahoo's popular work-from-home policy in 2013.

It was unpopular to say the least, both with employees who had taken advantage of the program and industry critics who attacked the decision by calling it a step backward for workplace flexibility.

But Mayer did what was right for Yahoo at the time. Despite the criticism - and there was a lot of it - Mayer stuck by her guns and didn't buckle under pressure. I admire that. You can't please everybody all the time, and Mayer wasn't afraid to make that tough decision. That's what CEOs do.

And it's why Mayer is one of my favorite women in business.

With March being Women's History Month, there's a lot of talk and reflection on the strides made by women in the workplace both past and present. It wasn't that long ago, after all, that women were rarely seen in boardrooms. Now, women are often running the show.

Man or woman, C-suite leaders can learn a lot from the best of the best - people I admire for their tenacity, ingenuity and intelligence. Take a few notes from Mayer and what some of my favorite women in business are doing, and you can go far.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund

Christine Lagarde is never afraid to speak her mind.

Lagarde blamed the 2008 worldwide financial crisis partly on the male-dominated, testosterone-fueled culture at global banks. She's demanded policymakers take bolder actions in reforming fiscal policies, investing in infrastructure and creating jobs.

That "tell it like it is attitude" has definitely rankled critics. But I like it. If you kowtow to everyone, you can lose your credibility as a leader.

Lagarde, the first woman to head up the 188-country financial organization, doesn't let anything phase her, and her no-nonsense manner clearly indicates someone who has risen to where she is through hard work - and her straight-talking manner has only added to her appeal.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook

Societal norms and gender stereotypes have influenced how women should act for decades. But it's up to women to redefine expectations, says Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the best-selling book, Lean In.

The book challenges readers to change the conversation from what women can't do to what they can do, and has served as a rallying cry for women to work together to create a more equal world.

I like Sandberg's philosophy. She's not afraid to shine light on gender differences in the workplace. But she's not merely complaining. She's taking action, offering practical advice and solutions.

That, to me, is key: If you don't like what people are talking about, change the conversation. And then, break down whatever barriers you have to in order to get the job done and get where you want to be.

Tania Yuki, founder and chief executive officer of Shareablee

Keep an eye out for young millennials making a difference! At Shareablee, a leading provider of social media content solutions for business, data is king. Data, after all, powers better decision-making - and intelligent data can embolden and inform the creative process across social media marketing.

With that data, Shareablee powers key metrics and deep audience intelligence for brands, publishers and agencies as they define and measure success across the social web.

But sometimes, it's who you know. Yuki is also the founder of wimlink, a networking group that connects media and technology professionals, entrepreneurs and innovators. By promoting professional development among women in these areas, Yuki is leading by example - an important quality of every leader.

Giving back to charitable causes is one thing. Taking an active role in changing the future is even better.

Indra Nooyi, chief executive officer of PepsiCo

It's easy to take the path of least resistance in business. Conventional wisdom says that if you take the easy gigs and do them well, you'll move up the ladder.

But where's the fun in that?

Challenges can be difficult. But if you embrace the tough assignments, as Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, has done time and time again her career, you'll be a better leader.

Nooyi didn't, for example, give way to recent pressure to split the company to slash costs and spur growth - which probably would have been the easier route to go. Instead, she pledged to keep the company undivided while improving performance and cutting $5 billion in costs over five years.

Love what you do - and tackle those difficult assignments with aplomb.

Jeffrey Hayzlett is a primetime television and radio host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett and Executive Perspectives on C-Suite TV and All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett on CBS on-demand radio network Play.It. Hayzlett is a global business celebrity, speaker, best-selling author, and Chairman of C-Suite Network, home of the world's most powerful network of C-Suite leaders. Connect with Hayzlett on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or