As I head to another one of Jane Tewson’s amazing Igniting Change gatherings at Necker Island I have given thought to this year’s theme – Courageous Leadership. Many people have traditionally associated great leadership with bullet proof scheming, and tough uncompromising behaviors. However a closer examination of the truly best leaders will actually reveal a management style based around courage, authenticity, and vulnerability so let’s explore these themes.


Authentic leaders are aware of their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions and they show their real selves in the workplace. They do not act one way in private and another in public in order to appear not being weak.

Importantly, authentic leaders put the objectives of the organisation ahead of their own interests and pursue collective successful outcomes rather than chasing things such as power and wealth.

You cannot be a true leader unless you lead with your heart. Do not be afraid to show your feelings and emotions in order to establish rapport with your team. Communicating in a clear and direct manner is vital but it must be done with empathy and tact.


“Vulnerability is the best measure of courage” is a quote from Brené Brown a world authority on the study of courage and vulnerability, and best-selling author of books such as Daring Greatly and one of the most viewed Ted talks ‘The Power of Vulnerability’. I was fortunate to spend time with Brené who attended one of Jane’s Igniting Change gatherings at Necker 3 years ago.

As Brené explains, being vulnerable and showing oneself to others is actually a sign of courage and self-confidence in a leader.

So here are 6 reasons why vulnerability is an attribute in leaders:

Better flow of ideas, creativity, and innovation

By recognising and acknowledging that they don’t have all the answers, leaders give freedom for all employees to provide input and have their feedback and ideas considered. By admitting mistakes, managers give their staff more room to offer feedback and express their ideas to the organisation. Leaders who acknowledge when they have made poor decisions and are still able to forgive themselves, through their example, let those they lead know that it is okay to take risks and try something new. This leads to more ideas coming forth at all levels, creating a more dynamic, productive organisation.

Increased teamwork and communication

A leader of an organisation sets the tone for acceptable behaviors and what is acceptable to talk about. If able to be open and share information honestly and authentically, a leader sends a strong message that this is not only acceptable throughout the organisation, but it is the norm. Team members will feel that it is okay to open up and share with each other.

Problems identified earlier

Many times people are afraid to bring bad news and problems to their leaders as they are afraid that the information might not be well received. Employees who witness their leaders being vulnerable and admitting their mistakes are more likely to come forward as they are less likely to feel retribution for being the bearer of bad news.

Decreases tension and stress at work

Have you ever worked somewhere with an elephant in the room, and nobody was talking about it? Avoiding and tiptoeing around secrets or stresses at work can be very stressful. Everyone’s blood pressure rises trying to figure out ways of avoiding uncomfortable topics when they come up. Stress could be decreased considerably by acknowledging uncomfortable topics and allowing people to talk about them. If everyone sees that their leaders are able to bring up unpopular areas for discussion, they will feel freer to talk about them as well.

Creates a fun workplace

A workplace with a lot of secrets is not a fun place to work. Always being careful about what we share and with whom can dampen down the spirit of a team and create a workplace that people dread coming to every day. A leader who is open, vulnerable and authentic raises the energy of the work environment and creates a healthy, vibrant atmosphere that everyone looks forward to being part of.

Connections leads to less turnover

Research points out that being emotionally connected to a workplace is often a deciding factor on whether or not people will stay or become dissatisfied and look elsewhere. Open, honest and authentic leadership makes it much more likely that employees at all levels will feel a connection to the organisation at an emotional level when they feel connected with their leaders. They are less likely to leave, even for more money or benefits, when they feel their leaders have their best interests at heart.

At the time of writing this article from our offices in New York it happens to be International Women’s Day – a movement which started here in 1909, as a drive for women’s rights and more recently a celebration of women’s achievements. It could be said that the traits of courage and authenticity have been widely displayed by women all over the world since time began. Vulnerability, on the other hand, has often had to be disguised in the professional arena so let’s hope those days are coming to an end. On a personal note I’m delighted that we’re seeing more female Execs at Talent including the recently appointed Melissa Brown CMO and Káti Gapaillard RISE CEO (pictured below) – welcome!

So, a toast to all women – keep fighting to be yourselves and we’ll all be in a better place.

And finally here’s to courageous leadership – the world certainly needs it right now!