Understanding Fearless Cultures

When there's no fear of failure, greatness can be achieved. 

Businesspeople having a meeting in the conference

In unsafe team climates, there can be a fear of failure and judgment. This fear creates pauses, lack of innovation and people shrinking. People can become silenced for fear of being wrong and stay in their comfort zone. Teams driven by fear of failure and judgment, as opposed to openness and support, can become silenced and stay in their comfort zone. Teams shrink and innovation is stalled.

In safe team environments, teams freely express themselves and their ideas. Innovation flows. There is trust and collaboration to unleash the art of the possible.

Fear has never been, and will never be, a good leadership strategy. Teams will often resort to toxic behaviors to get ahead.

Relatable Leadership

A fearless, healthy culture is cultivated through a relatable leader, with high emotional intelligence, who prioritizes authenticity, joy and learning. Failure is applauded and viewed as a learning opportunity. Mistakes are discussed openly. When there's no fear of failure, people are open to feedback and embrace failing fast to evolve a strategy. Relatable leadership fuels this environment.

Relatable leaders authentically cultivate an environment of emotional connections which, organically, drives high-performing teams. Harnessing teams' collective uniqueness and bringing soul back into the business. Empowering leaders are connectors, energizers and boundary spanners. They make way for the fearless culture advocates, supporters, executors and achievers; they are the force multipliers.

Efficiency Leadership

On the opposite spectrum is efficiency leadership. Efficiency doesn't equate to success. Efficiency leadership was designed for less turbulent times. We are in a volatile, unprecedented market. Today, adaptability is critical. Adaptability results from teamwork and collaboration. Efficiency leadership results from hierarchy and the commander's intent. Efficiency leadership is reliant on a single person who can't possibly understand the full landscape. There is no diversity of thought, perspectives, skills and experiences.

Healthy Cultures

Today's complexity demands an open approach and healthy cultures to empower execution and inspire innovation. Healthy cultures promote agile ways of working (anticipate, adapt and act). Change is an opportunity—not destabilizing. An agile culture breaks down silos, flexes talent, enables safe spaces, establishes the why of the work and shares a purpose. Integrated talent strategies are powerful when a talent ecosystem focuses on everyone's expertise—not a title. Disable the talent hoarders and enable the talent magnets: rotate talents to strengthen the pack and enable borderless careers across geographies, businesses and functions.

Healthy cultures reward courage and reframe imposter syndrome. It is a safe space for vulnerability and the freedom to be imperfect. Team members can focus on a journey of progress. Imposter syndrome is a social phenomenon rather than a clinical entity, so its definitions vary. Broadly defined: The feeling of intellectual and professional fraudulence. Highly capable people suffer from imposter syndrome. Your personality, childhood and coping styles influence imposter syndrome and how it manifests. It takes courage to challenge your inner critic and to lessen the intensity of self-doubt. Leaders can intentionally diminish its crippling powers through inclusivity.

An inclusive environment doesn't just happen. It must be cultivated. A leader must promote, reward and enable environments with the safety to learn, make mistakes and be vulnerable. Leaders who know their teams' strengths can create a space of contributor safety, complementing each other's talents.

Leadership Presence Versus Executive Presence

Be the leader who influences, motivates and cultivates thinking and teamwork. The leader who chooses connection over correction. Leaders who exude healthy optimism create a sphere of influence that promotes collaboration resulting in high engagement.

Team engagement is the height of leadership. It guides each person to their place on the team so that they can find personal fulfillment for overall team success. This makes team engagement a completely different beast than employee engagement. Leaders who want to promote engagement need to set the tone through authenticity.

Authentic leadership harmoniously weaves together an individual's uniqueness into a collaborative, high-performing team and enables belonging, ultimately resulting in peak innovation and empowerment.

Conversely, "executive presence" is the traditional idea of leadership and has a flavor of command and control. An elite tone that fuels hierarchy and promotes posturing, acting in a manner that's congruent to a title. Many rising stars and aspiring leaders are assessed against outdated standards of the executive presence definition. When an individual displays a presence different than others, their merits, competencies and accomplishments are questioned. They're labeled as "not leadership material."

The traditional and narrow executive presence definition does not allow for the diversity lens. Emphasizing "leadership presence," as opposed to "executive presence," invites diverse expressions and creates fair and equitable opportunities across the teams, leveraging each person's unique value and ultimately creates a sense of belonging.


Belonging is an experience in which a person feels connected, supported and respected as their authentic self. Belonging happens when leaders provide their teams with a sense of psychological safety and ensures that everyone feels welcomed and respected for their contributions. Leadership presence plays a crucial role to reinforce the value of fairness, respect and safety, enabling a space to openly discuss different perspectives, healthy challenges and team connections.

High-belonging teams are high-performing teams. Put another way: "Members of high-performing teams feel more than included; there is a strong sense of belonging. They aren't just given a seat at the table; they know they can safely contribute, challenge ideas and weigh in on decisions without risking repercussions or retaliation." A high-performing team has an equitable power structure. Every team member is valued and belongs.

A fearless, healthy culture is cultivated through a relatable leader who prioritizes authenticity, joy and learning. Failure is applauded and learning is an opportunity. When there's no fear of failure, greatness can be achieved.

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