BACK to the Future for Leadership

Question if leaders are made or born

My recent interview series with 75+ incredible CEOs, Company Directors & Senior professional leaders focussed on several themes. At its core was the age old question. Are leaders Born or Made?

The collective outcome was unequivocal - Leaders are Made.

Brilliant! At a time when leaders reported our business environment to be increasingly complex and demanding, it is the news we all need. 

It is possible to improve our authentic leadership skills, access more of our softer emotions and build the critical leadership skill of self awareness. It takes courage, practice and feedback to point you the right way.

It is possible to find ease, joy and confidence in our leadership style, and have greater success. Not just in terms of business performance, but also significantly stronger employee engagement. When you lead with empathy, employees and teams will notice.

The question is - Do you dare to be the leader the world needs today? Do you dare to lead and make a positive impact?

Reference to blog on how to develop an authentic leader opposed to leading with command and control

Our recent blog, Command and Control Leadership is leaving the Building. Are you stuck?, outlined the urgent & compelling need for change. Old style, autocratic leadership styles are in direct contrast to the authentic empathetic leadership our workplaces need today.

Autocratic and dominant Leadership skills are outdated

Historically, leadership has been viewed as a masculine trait. Leaders have been expected to be strong, decisive, and in control at all times. In response to these pervasive archetypes, many female leaders have emphasised these masculine traits in order to achieve the leadership roles they aspire to. This has not worked and it has often backfired, with women labelled as aggressive versus assertive.

This old leadership style has also trapped male leaders. Boys were often discouraged from displaying softer emotions, and missed the opportunity to build this vital life and authentic leadership skill.

This old model has left many leaders with a perception of what a good leader should be, but it is not delivering results and it is not role modelling for future leaders.

The world needs more empathetic leaders to tackle future problems

In recent years, there has been a shift. We are now recognising the importance of feminine qualities like empathy, collaboration, and emotional intelligence as important leadership skills.

And as the world continues to change at an unprecedented rate, we need effective leaders who are adaptable and authentic above all else. Leaders who are open, curious, vulnerable and relatable. Leaders who show commitment to exploring and balancing their masculine with their feminine.

For too long, we have all relied on masculine leadership styles and it has led us to a place of imbalance. 

Hunter Johnson, CEO Man Cave, shared that it’s a confusing time for masculinity and goes on to elaborate on his perspective of masculine and feminine leadership qualities in a recent interview,

..energetic states that we all have and I think the 

feminine qualities are really what the world needs right now.

It’s about men getting range in their leadership abilities. 

Sometimes they do need to be stoic and autocratic and, you know, be decisive.

But other days they need to be softer and more nurturing

and be curious and be open and not have the answers.  

And their masculinity is not going to fall away. 

Hunter Johnson, Brave Feminine Leadership Interview series 2021

 The full interview with Hunter Johnson is available here.

A recent article in The Economist highlights the ten trends to watch in the coming year and summarises status quo as follows; 

In retrospect, the pandemic marked the end of a period of relative stability and predictability in geopolitics and economics. Today’s world is much more unstable, convulsed by vicissitudes of great-power rivalry, the after-shocks of the pandemic, economic upheaval, extreme weather, and rapid social and technological change. Unpredictability is the new normal. There is no getting away from it.

It is clear we are seeing a zeitgeist shift. One that will create new opportunities and will require changes in leadership style, that won't be achieved with just an off the shelf leadership training. It requires developing leadership traits that require practice, with a strong focus on putting relationships ahead of being right or being in control.

It will require authentic leaders who are comfortable admitting to feelings of uncertainty about how to navigate right now.  Leaders who communicate and step out of their comfort zone to ultimately build trust, strong relationships and make a positive impact on their team, employees and company.

Leaders who don’t place unrealistic expectations on themselves to have all the answers. 

That takes courage.

An effective leader has to show courage in the workplace

Authentic leaders who focus on building teams, on openly sharing what keeps them awake at night and then creating the environment to find the best solutions collaboratively. 

We are at a Tipping Point and the world needs empathetic leadership, with leaders who know they


  • can be Driven and Humble.

  • can be Charismatic and Connected.

  • can be Tough and Generous

  • Can be Decisive and Open to input

  • Can be Logical and Intuitive

Nelson Mandela has stood as a symbol of courageous and vulnerable leadership for generations. His words

 “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination” 

serves as a good yardstick for any self aware leader to reflect and check our actions and decisions. 

If Leaders are Made, then the good news is that we can choose to keep learning

In conversation with Peter Harmer (Non-Executive Director), he shared

Anyone who believes that they've arrived at a position of leadership is fooling themselves. It's a constant journey. You're always learning and you should always be trying to improve.

Peter Harmer, Brave Feminine Leadership Interview Series 2022

Access the full interview with Peter Harmer here.

Are you open to keep growing your effective leadership skills?

Could you be relying too heavily on your finely honed masculine leadership traits? Is it time to adopt some key feminine leadership traits and dare to lead with head and heart.

Don't wait to enjoy the many benefits that this authentic leadership style could bring you, your team, your customers, your organisation. The world needs more effective leaders and it could be a few changes away.

An ability to take responsibility to keep learning is an important leadership skill

Here are my Top 3 suggestions to become a Leader for Today and Tomorrow.


1. Create an Emotionally Safe Environment

This means as the leader you need to be prepared to demonstrate vulnerability first.

Vulnerable does not mean emotional. To me it means showing a willingness to step out of our comfort zone and take a chance that could lead to rejection or embarrassment. 

Importantly it is the PATH to building connection, trust and growth.  

  • Ask for Help. 

  • Share some of your mistakes and learnings along the way. 

When your team feels like they can express themselves without fear of judgement or criticism, they are more likely to come up with creative solutions and push the boundaries of what's possible when they face challenges.

This type of environment fosters innovation and creativity, two essential qualities for any successful organisation. 

2. Collaborative Decision Making

Easy to say and harder to do. As a respected Leader you will always need to make the final call.  As we take on roles with broader accountability, these skills become critical and often require us to make decisions with ambiguous data and limited time to weigh up every scenario.

In our increasingly complex landscape with multiple and changing stakeholders we cannot make good decisions in a vacuum. It is vital that we open ourselves up to different perspectives and don’t exert our opinion too early.  Click here for our Checklist for collaboration

Collaboration creates better relationships and leads to making decisions as one organization

3. Combine Competence with Humility

It is not an advantage to be the smartest in the room. And, if you think you are the smartest in the room, then it is definitely not an advantage to let everyone know that.  Across all 75 interviews I conducted, all of these incredible leaders shared a blend of absolute competence, coupled with down to earth humility. They all shared openly their own version of Imposter Syndrome, the leadership lessons they learned, the mistakes they made. They spoke of self- awareness, of not needing to be right and critically assessed the changes they had made in their careers to be authentic and empathetic leaders, these are traits that we need in all our leaders.

Is there room to flex your leadership style to become kinder, more caring & nurturing? To consider going back to the future, recognising that the choices we make today can have a large and long-lasting impact on tomorrow.

What style of leader will you dare to be?

If you are keen to tap into vulnerability into 2023, then watch our  “5x5” conversation on what vulnerability means today,

Do you feel that you might love to start this journey together? Click here to learn more about our Brave Feminine Leadership Training program.

If you've been inspired by this blog and are eager to learn more about leadership, then I highly recommend reading my recent blog post "One Conversation Changed it All for Me". It's filled with actionable tips that can help you take your leadership skills to the next level. So don't miss out, read on!