Tap into Your Inner Rebel to be a More Impactful Leader

In many cultures, women are encouraged to maintain the status quo and play by the rules. Yet, to be an influential leader who leaves a lasting, meaningful impact, we must be willing to break this worn-out mindset.

Influential Leaders Channel Their Inner Rebel

In her book, Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life, author Francesca Gino explores the characteristics that help effective “rebels” to stand out in today’s ever-changing, highly competitive business world.

As a behavioral scientist and professor at Harvard Business School, Gino’s work is gleaned from long-term experience examining rebels all over the globe. Her work discovered that the rebel – who throughout history has been called an agitator or a revolutionary – possesses what she defines as “rebel talent.”

Rebels have an inner defiance of the oft heard phrase, “It’s always been done this way,” and it’s that fire and spark that we must learn to embrace in ourselves to become the dynamic leaders our world needs now more than ever before.

“Rebels and non-conformists are often the pioneers and designers of change.”

-Indira Gandhi

Break the Rules to Effectively Navigate Today’s Stormy Seas

As we grew up, we might remember being cautioned against challenging the status quo. We may have been told that to get ahead, we shouldn’t “rock the boat” too much, that it was better to fit in or “just get along” rather than to oppose convention.

Yet Gino surprised herself with the discovery of the value and meaning that a rebel talent brings to life. In attempting to understand breaking rules in the workplace, she found that being a rebel actually enhances every aspect of our lives.

From her research, she determined that people who broke the rules did so in ways that resulted in positive changes in their organizations and in the world. We, too, can let our inner rebel qualities emerge – and use this “positive deviance” to break rules so that a favorable outcome is achieved.

Our studies found that nonconformity leads to positive inferences of status and competence when it is associated with deliberateness and intentionality…

– Silvia Bellezza, Francesca Gino and Anat Keinan in “The Surprising Benefits of Nonconformity

In fact, when one of the article’s authors in the above quote donned a pair of red sneakers while teaching a class to business execs, the students assumed the professor was a “well-published scholar and high up in the hierarchy of her department.”

In today’s ever-changing world, where business is highly competitive and social media can damage careers in mere seconds, we can call on our inner rebel to lead, inspire and create innovative changes – akin to the rebels throughout history – think Rosario Córdoba Garcés, Sabrina Bouzidi, Isabelle Kocher, or Mary Barra, who came before us.

Envision what your inner rebel can do for you and those you lead…

“Impossible is only an opinion.” 
―Anik Singal

Let Your Inner Rebel Take the Road Less Traveled in Leadership

We know that uncomfortable feeling of going against the norm. Yet defying the so-called norm and letting our inner rebel lead the way can prove to be beneficial. When our rebel persona guides us to venture down the road less traveled, it can make all the difference.

General Director of the BBC Greg Dyke took over the company in troublesome times. Traditional business advice would have led him to draw up a standard plan for the future and figure out how to achieve the goals that were set forth.

Instead, his inner rebel inspired him to spend five months in various BBC offices throughout the UK – even dropping in on employees dining in the cafeteria – and asking for their advice on what the BBC needed.

The result? He gained employees’ respect by asking for their input – and when he formulated his vision plan for the company, employees were enthusiastic to help out.

What are the principles of a rebel leader? Gino highlights several key characteristics:

  • Stay curious, open to new ideas
  • Seek out those who disagree
  • Pursue conversation, don’t stifle it
  • Let authenticity shine
  • Discover freedom in obstructions
  • Be willing to get those hands dirty
  • See mistakes as potential breakthroughs

The Power of Expanding Our Leadership Influence

No matter what our job titles are, broadening our influence has powerful effects. How?

Being good at what we do – and doing our work with vigor – shows those in our organization that we’re confident, capable, skilled. “Being good at your job is one of the basic elements of influence,” according to Melissa Drake, founder of Collaborative AF.

How we share our expertise is powerful, too. Are others in your organization comfortable in seeking your assistance? Or are you viewed as overbearing or “too much?”

Our relationships with others are key. Knowing those around us on a personal, “human” level so that we can effectively relate to them fosters strong connections. “It allows people to be seen and heard as individuals and who they are,” explains Drake.

Being human – and humble – and letting those around you see you for your strengths and weaknesses – is another crucial aspect to effective leadership. Our team members and colleagues will begin to see us as ‘real’ and be more inclined to develop positive relationships.

We should also consider embracing another aspect of ourselves that sometimes goes hand-in-hand with rebellion: our intuition. Blending logic and reasoning with our inner instincts may certainly rock the status quo – and that’s exactly what’s needed to drive meaningful change.

By letting our inner rebel lead us in making sometimes uncomfortable choices or difficult decisions that ultimately result in positive change, we can transform our careers – and the teams we lead – from ordinary to extraordinary.

“Rebels are the people who refuse the seen for the unseen.”

-Anne Douglas Sedgwick

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Vulnerable leadership is more than going it alone

How Vulnerable Leadership Becomes Your True Strength

This may not be the first time you’ve heard the words vulnerable and leadership in the same sentence. It’s become a revolutionary topic in today’s professional development sphere.

You might have mixed feelings about the idea of vulnerable leadership. Perhaps discomfort, lack of clarity as well as curiosity and intrigue. As a corporate leader, you may have some of these thoughts:

  • Intuitively, I know that vulnerability helps build trust and respect on a human level, but how can show vulnerable leadership without being viewed as weak in my corporate work setting?
  • What are the concrete benefits of being vulnerable with my team?
  • I get the concept, but what does it actually look like in my day to day work?

I’m happy to share that you can embrace vulnerability in a way that feels safe and turn it into your leadership superpower.

What True Vulnerable Leadership Is (and Isn’t)

First, let’s set something straight. For many years we’ve been told that leaders shouldn’t show imperfections, weaknesses, or any sense that we don’t have everything under control.

Today, however, we are being called to lead more authentically. Research from people like social science professor Brené Brown is debunking the outdated, yet commonly held belief that we need to keep our walls up. The reality is that vulnerability lies at the root of all human connection and is where creativity and innovation begin. This is precisely why we need to embrace it if we want to lead collaborative and prosperous teams.

This may seem counterintuitive and even risky as a leader. However, the feeling of real human connection with leadership is often the missing piece for people in many work environments.

When we appear as if we know it all and everything is always under control, we’re actually making it harder on ourselves and those we lead. We close ourselves off to new ideas and our team can feel it. This significantly impacts their motivation.

Truly influential leaders are authentic – we are not afraid of showing our humanness, which means we know our strengths and values, we welcome feedback and criticism, and we don’t shy away from asking for help.

Why is this so effective? Because when we lead from an authentic place, it means we must be vulnerable. We’re not hiding our true selves. This amplifies the “we” – we all struggle, we’re all human – uniting you and your team. It leaves behind the “me versus them” mindset that creates separation.

Why Authentic Connections Lead to Strong Teams

Now that we’ve cleared up the fallacies around vulnerable leadership, you may be wondering how exactly it shows up with you and your team.

Research from Harvard Professor Jeff Polzer looks at how vulnerability plays out in day-to-day behaviors and interactions in organizational settings. First, he clarifies that the impact of vulnerability is not the “touchy-feely” association we often have with the term. Rather, the impact comes through very clear exchanges of openness that create cooperation and trust – he calls this a vulnerability loop.

The loop begins when someone (ideally beginning with you – as the leader and model for your team) shares something vulnerable like, “This project is going to be challenging, and I don’t have all of the answers.”

Vulnerable leadership means communicating with others

Photograph by Christina Wocintechchat, Unsplash

Polzer emphasizes the importance of that moment is about the receiver, not the discloser. Do they lean in? Do they connect? Do they share their own humanness? Or do they hide and pretend they have no limits or challenges? That is the moment of opportunity to build trust and where the loop continues.

Over time repeated vulnerability loops build the “cooperation muscle” which leads to the most innovative team dynamics. They all come down to the single interactions, repeated over and over.

Can you imagine where your team would be if you practiced these vulnerability loops over a year’s time? Think about where your team would be in five years…

Do You Have the Courage to Lead?

Before you decide to practice vulnerability, you need to know and accept that it will not be a comfortable process. It requires courage. One day, one interaction at a time. You don’t pretend you’re perfect, and that can make leaders feel very uncomfortable.

You can see though, it’s exactly what leads to deep trust and cooperation, and that is worth all the discomfort in the world.


Vulnerability is not weakness, it’s our greatest measure of courage.

— Brené Brown


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Assume Positive Intent

Want a Powerful Team? Assume Positive Intent

As a leader, what does it mean to assume positive intent? It means that no matter what someone says or does, we assume that they are doing their best, and we model this behavior for others to take on themselves.

This may sound like a lofty, and perhaps even risky intention when working with teams because it’s not a natural practice for most of us.  Frequently, people are socialized from a young age not to trust others or to be suspicious of true (mal) intent.  Leaders however, know that to truly lead they can only harness the power of teams through trust and personal empowerment.  Both of which are actualized by starting with the assumption of positive intent toward the team members themselves.

The truth is, leading cohesive and productive teams is about building relationships which in turn brings meaning and joy into our lives.  In order to develop those relationships and consequently strong teams, we must choose to assume the best in people.  If we are leading consciously, this has lasting positive effects on everyone around us.

Why Leading With Positive Intent Matters

We all make mistakes, and how we make meaning of them is what’s most important. Typically, we judge ourselves based on circumstances (“I wasn’t given enough notice” or “It was a busy day”) and we judge others based on their character (“He doesn’t care,” “She’s ignorant,” or “It’s all their fault”). The problem is, we behave off our own set of assumptions regardless of their truth.

As a leader, team building starts with your intention. Too often, our intentions go unchecked and we react and make quick assumptions out of our conscious awareness.

Intentions lead to behaviors. Behaviors lead to habits. Collective habits lead to culture. Culture informs your team.

Assuming Negative Intent Doesn’t Serve You

When we assume negative intent in others (whether conscious or not) we react with defensiveness. When we’re defensive, we stop listening, which cuts us off from learning, growing, and developing ourselves and our team in an impactful manner.  Think of it this way, if a leader assumes their team isn’t trying their hardest to succeed, there is little to be gained by listening to them.  However, if a leader believes the team is invested and making every effort to meet their goals, this is an enormous opportunity to think creatively and develop dynamic new processes.  Both the leader and the team benefit exponentially.

There will be times when actual negative intent from an individual we lead displays itself, but if we commit to assuming the best and we don’t jump to conclusions, we allow that person to grow. We take what we’ve learned from that experience and inform how we proceed with that person in that situation. It’s crucial not to assign negative intent to all situations, or worse, to everyone else.

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Leadership and letting go

Letting Go is the Secret to Effective Leadership

Let go. Loosen up a little. Just relax.

Letting Go in Leadership…Really?

How many times do we hear phrases like the above on a daily basis? It seems they’ve become ubiquitous in our fast-paced, always-on world – so much so that we often overlook their deeper meaning, particularly when it comes to leadership.

But isn’t letting go like giving up?” is a common question I hear. Truth be told, many of us struggle to make a connection between the concept of letting go and how it can inspire impactful leadership.

It can even seem counterproductive, especially in metrics-driven workplace cultures focused on “tightening the grip” and “cracking the whip” to achieve results at any cost.

Letting Go in Action (yes, it actually works)

An HBR article aptly titled “Leading by Letting Go” takes us through the story of how Jim Bush transformed American Express’s service operations over a decade ago. Here are some of the key points this article puts out:

Although American Express was considered to have excellent customer service even at that time, it was using the traditional “command-and-control” model at company call centers. This meant a focus on reducing costs, lowering call time averages, and emphasizing metrics and stats.

But Bush had a different vision. Instead of focusing purely on a financial perspective, he saw a model where real relationships between company and customer were built. In turn, this would be a major factor in setting American Express apart from its competitors, while driving future growth and increasing profits.

Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it? But there was just one major obstacle getting in the way: scripts, metrics, and endless company rules and regulations. Somehow all of that didn’t lend itself to building meaningful, caring relationships with customers.

Impactful Leaders Don’t Give Up – They Let Go

Like any impactful leader, Bush wasn’t one to give up. Well, maybe he was – but not in the way you might think. He let go, ditching the worn-out call scripts and the constant focus on averages and stats.

And he didn’t stop there.

Notable highlights of the key changes Bush made include:

  • Updated the service rep title to customer care professional and gave them business cards, increased their salary and introduced more flexible hours.
  • Developed a 4-part system designed to motivate customer service professionals to take the initiative to provide a high quality customer service experience.
  • A key component of his system involved the concept of letting go, in keeping with his vision of building authentic relationships with customers and with staff. Although customer care professionals were well-trained in company policies and products, when it came to handling calls, they got to choose what they talked about – free of any scripts.

For anyone remotely familiar with American Express, the results of Bush’s leadership remain evident to this day: J.D. Power often ranks American Express “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Credit Card Companies.”

Now It’s Your Turn…3 Ways to Let Go

1- Deepen your relationships. Among the key ingredients to a formula for successfully letting go, trust is at the very top. Here’s how to build trust in your relationships with team members. When we feel a stronger sense of trust, it makes it easier to let go.

Keys to effective leadership

When you set up a system that enables you to let go with confidence — to trust your employees to exercise their own judgment and learn from their experience — employees can become both self-directing and self-correcting. They become inspired, energetic, and enthusiastic. And the experience they deliver to customers is likely to be far better than anything you could ever control.

Rob Markey in HBR

2- Ditch destructive habits. Leadership is a continual process of learning and self-growth. We must be willing to take an honest look within to identify habits and behaviors that are not serving our highest good. Some common ones? Not listening, micromanaging, and overlooking important feedback.

This isn’t a once-and-you’re-done quick task – it’s an ever-evolving introspective journey. Once we recognize habits that aren’t helpful, what’s the next step? You guessed it: letting go of them. Turn to this article on going below the waterline for greater insight.

3- Be your true Self. When we’re grounded in who we are and strongly aligned with our core values, we can truly let our authentic selves shine. A side benefit? As we become more comfortable in our own skin, we’ll be in a better place to more easily let go. These authentic leadership tips will inspire you.

Bringing transparency into our everyday leadership activities gives us the opportunity to let our authentic selves shine in all that we do. As we become more transparent, we’re more likely to build cohesive, interactive teams that are willing to take on additional responsibility and to contribute to the greater good.

Today, try letting go…even just a little bit 🙂 I bet you’ll find it’s one of the best-kept leadership secrets yet.

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Want to Lead with Greater Ease? Start with Self-Reflection.

Self awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.”

Debbie Ford

What’s the foundation for extraordinary leadership that leaves a lasting impact?


Far from being selfish, self-reflection allows us to explore ourselves more deeply – or as Inc.com author Jacob Morgan asserts, “Before you can lead other people, you have to learn how to lead yourself.”

The Many Benefits of Self-Reflection

Leaders – or anyone who consciously engages in a practice of self-reflection – can expect to enjoy many benefits:

  • Stronger clarity and confidence when making decisions

  • More effective, productive communications with others

  • A deeper understanding of our thoughts, moods, and behaviors

  • Ability to tap into our highest potential with greater ease

  • A sense of groundedness and connection in work and life

As most leaders know all too well, it can be incredibly easy to get so caught up in the rapid pace of modern life with its seemingly endless parade of responsibilities that we put self-reflection on the back burner.

When this happens, we lose touch with ourselves and our ability to lead with authenticity.

Leadership strategies

It’s Time to Get BOLDLY Honest – With Ourselves.

When is the best time to practice self-reflection? That’s a question only you can answer, but here’s a great hint from Forbes contributor Naz Beheshti: “It is in the times where you feel that you cannot find enough time that reflection will prove most useful.

Self-reflection is all about getting radically honest with ourselves, getting clear on what our values are, and asking the right questions to provoke a deeper, inner contemplation. “Radical honesty would require us to stand fully in our truth,” suggests Beheshti.

There is no right or wrong time to engage in a practice of self-reflection. Rather, finding what works for you and doing it consistently is key.

Some people may find it most effective to self-reflect first thing in the morning, before the hectic pace of the day gets underway and a greater sense of clarity is present. Others may prefer to bring closure to a busy day with a quiet time of self-reflection before retiring for the evening.

Simple Self-Reflection Practices to Incorporate into Your Life

Need some inspiration to get started? Try any of these simple strategies to discover which ones most resonate with you…

1- Start a journal. Spending time in the solitude of self-reflection can be just the springboard we need to take effective action when we feel ready. And journaling is one of the best strategies we can use to increase our self-awareness. Do an entire brain dump or just scribble down a few thoughts – you might be surprised at the big insights you gain from this age-old practice.Self-reflection in leadership

2- Try a little gratitude. Gratitude isn’t just a feel-good strategy – it has proven benefits, backed by science. Consistent expressions of gratitude actually alter the molecular structure of our brains, enhancing our levels of both happiness and health. This is one simple practice you’ll want to make a part of your everyday life!

3- Ask questions. Indeed, self-reflection involves getting radically honest. When we take a step back from the constant activity of the day, we can ask deeper (and sometimes difficult) questions, like: What are my values? Did I live in alignment with them today? What is my “why”? What legacy do I want to leave as a leader?

4- Infuse self-care. Self-care isn’t self-indulgent; instead, it can become the foundation of a virtuous circle around you: the kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you will likely be to others. The more they receive kindness, the more they can give it to themselves and others. And so on. Think about it: it all starts with you.

Self-Reflection5- Challenge convention. If you’ve followed my blogs for any length of time, you know that I’m not afraid to go against the grain when the situation dictates. That’s where the whole “radically honest” part of self-reflection comes in. When we’re willing to “get real” with ourselves, we sometimes uncover things we were completely unaware of.

At times, the insights we receive as a result of self-reflection may surprise us. They may call for us to challenge conventional wisdom, to go against a common mindset. And that’s a wonderful thing!

It was John F. Kennedy who once said: “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

May we all integrate a strong practice of self-reflection into our daily lives so we too, can get BOLDLY honest, challenge convention, and lead with greater ease…and lasting impact.

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