Academic leadership development has now become a critical issue in higher education globally. Leaders with exceptional capabilities are needed to help higher education institutions meet extraordinary challenges in the changing times. There is also an urgent need for women academics to play increasingly important roles in terms of providing effective and high calibre leadership and management. A better understanding of women university presidents’ career experiences is of great value in meeting these challenges. The authors identify and explore the essence of leadership and management grounded in these women’s experiences and bridge the gap between China and Western countries. The themes are illustrated throughout by insightful narratives of women university presidents. The authors’ articulation through rich stories of women’s leadership experiences is both moving and telling. This is a contribution that promises to transform both the leading of universities and the preparation of those who will lead them. Out of these women’s career experiences is an intriguing exploration of leadership and management that holds the promise of initiating significant and positive changes.