The ‘Vulnerable’ Leader – Do you have the courage to show your authentic self?

The fifth game would decide the clincher of the title between Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, two of the best teams in the game during the late 90’s. The five game series had tied 2-2 and the best player in the world, Michael Jordan was going through sleepless nights between the fourth game and the fifth. He wished he be injured during practice, wished that his food be poisoned and he be admitted to the hospital. He wished that some calamity befall and the games stay as they are!

The reason? He did not want to be a part of the fifth match and stake the reputation of Air Jordan, the greatest player centre court had ever seen by losing the penultimate game. At the pinnacle of his career, the greatest basketball player of the world faced the most interesting challenge of his life – “The Challenge of Vulnerability.” It is a different story that he played the game, with all his heart and went on to win the most valuable player trophy at the NBA, but his story certainly resonates with the stories of some of the greatest people who’ve lived their time on earth.

How many of us have faced this situation when the odds are stacked against us, when we really want to quit and give up, when we are haunted by the demons that lie dormant deep within us? How many times in our lives have we almost given up, feeling a sense of desperation and deprivation ready to call it quits when your leadership is challenged? How many times have you felt like a vulnerable leader?

There’s good news. When a Michael Jordan can feel vulnerable, so can you and I. We all have our moments when the odds are stacked against us and we question our own ability and capability.

During those moments you need to realize that vulnerability is not an act of cowardice, but the ability to propel yourself and show your authentic self, first to yourself and then to the rest of the world. It is that force that you experience during the most testing of times, yet you break out of its shackles and emerge triumphant. Vulnerability is what brings out the best from within us and makes us stronger.


There are a few myths which are associated with vulnerability which is very important for us to get done with. The top three myths regarding vulnerability are as follows –

  1. Vulnerability is weakness: No it isn’t. It is the strength that gives us an opportunity to surpass our weaknesses
  2. You can stay away from vulnerability: It is a part of our existence and hence a part of us. No one can stay away from vulnerability, however we can cope with it and emerge victorious.
  3. It is not about going all alone: Vulnerability is also about disclosure, about the confidence to confide in someone who you trust and possibly guide you out of the situation.

There are moments during your course of engagement that you feel low, feel the need to back out, feel that the time and the situation are not suitable for your mind to propel towards action, fret not! Vulnerability could be an asset if used well could guide you into your next orbit of confidence and conviction.

Vulnerability is an asset, use it well!


There is no such thing as “Women Leadership”


On January 16, 2016 I was invited to the First Annual Coaching Conference – The World Game Conference, hosted by Erickson Coaching International and Inspire Coaching Systems. A day full of deep conversations and sharing of perspectives on Leadership, Life, Dreaming Big, Translating Innovation into Action, Transitioning boundaries – left the delegates with an enhanced sense of purpose and renewed goals.

As part of the agenda, was a panel discussion, on the topic – There is no such thing as “Women Leadership”. Many interesting and thought provoking insights came up in this discussion. As one of the coaches invited to participate on the Panel, I have tried to summarise my thought process on this subject, in this blog post:

Living near the border of Tibet in the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, the Mosuo tribe live in extended households with the head of the family is a matriarch. Interestingly, Mosuo women typically handle business decisions for their families.  Likewise, the Nagovisi tribe, an inherent of South Bougainville, an island in the west of New Guinea has ladies involved in leadership and ceremonies and pride most in the land entitled to them.

These are two distinct yet exemplary examples of how women are leading from the front even in the most non reported tribes of the world. This practice is not a new phenomenon but centuries old. And if we look around ourselves, we will find many many examples – be it Indira Nooyi, Sheryl Sandberg, Chanda Kochhar, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and so on, in the corporate world ; Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza, PT Usha, Anjali Bhagwat in sports, or in politics like Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth, Golda Mein, Aung San Suu Kyi to name a few.

So the statement that we have here –  “There is no such thing as women leadership.”

Of course there is no such thing.

How could one even categorize leadership and slot it in a very narrow bucket of gender. While doing this we become discriminatory and myopic and take away all the credit of the hard work, passion, dedication, effort and the vision that exemplary leaders, irrespective of the gender, have showcased through centuries of leadership.

Leadership is certainly not gender based, hence, there is no such thing as women leader. My sojourn as an Executive Coach has provided me the opportunity to engage my services and closely work with senior leaders globally. Through years of enriching myself with the experiences seen and shared I have realized that each one of them had their individual strengths and their own styles of leadership, without a hint of gender intonation.

Stereotypes are created by the society. Or else how would you define a leader that is Sanjeev Kapoor, the globally recognized Chef who owns the kitchen space and is a male and Mary Kom who is the queen of the square boxing ring. If gender had to be looked at leadership and thereby their contributions to their individual fields, the roles should be been reversed with Sanjeev boxing and Mary Kom cooking in the kitchen.

Through my years of engagement, as an Executive Coach, I have had the opportunity of working with gentlemen CEOs who have a very nurturing and participative style of leadership, the attributes which is socially declared as feminine. Likewise, I have had the opportunity to work with authoritative and directive high performing women senior executives, as their Coach.  They surely make no bones about their direct approach to communication and execution. If leadership had to be mapped in terms of gender, again the roles should have been certainly reversed.

I ultimately believe that gender has nothing to do with leadership. Leadership is an attitude. Leadership is a way of being. It is about the style one adopts and adapts, to suit the environment, irrespective of the gender. Hence, I conclude by saying that there is no such thing as women leadership and also add a caveat that there is no such thing as male leadership too.


The Leadership Habitat

Leadership is the expertise to encourage the process of decision making through the capacity to listen and observe. Leadership is not the measure of a person’s skill of performance; rather it is the measure of a person’s capacity of leading the performance.

The most gifted athletes rarely make good coaches. The best violinist will not necessarily make the best conductor. Nor will the best teacher necessarily make the best head of the department.

The thrill of challenge makes a potential leader. A willingness to take responsibility will never intimidate a true leader, because the joy of accomplishment, the vicarious feeling of contributing to other people, is what leadership is all about.

A leader needs an environment to succeed. It is so important, particularly in the early days of someone’s leadership, that he or she be put into a congenial environment. An environment that threatens our sense of security or well-being splits our concentration from the cause.

Most qualities which define the characteristics of any individual begin at home. Leadership is no different. A natural leader begins the process of conscious decision making at home. It is his or her habitat which mirrors this skill of leadership.

Habitat is Latin for ‘It inhabits’. The type of environment in which any life form or a group normally lives is known as habitat. A leader contributes towards a process of building and improving his or her habitat through an involved engagement of the broader community through inclusive leadership and diverse partnerships which would nourish the habitat further

The sense of caring and sharing with one’s brethren and the sense of fellowship forms the core of a habitat. A leader has a very great role to play in acting as a catalyst for a synergetic relationship between individuals working in diverse habitat related areas and to maximise their total effectiveness.

Delhi, one of India’s richest cities faces an unparalleled water crisis. Poonam Bisht may be the best known resident of West End, an affluent neighbourhood in New Delhi. The housewife and mother of two is the suburb’s resident activist.

Ms. Bisht’s is responsible for building a rainwater harvesting system in the neighbourhood. The low tech system consists of a network of unassuming gutters in the ground that funnel rainwater to shallow pits lined with pebbles that act as a filter.

Thanks to this system, West End is able to draw on its own tubewells and no longer hires trucks to bring in water as is the norm in many Indian Cities where ground water has dried up.

This rare quality of leadership with a hands-on approach shown by Ms. Bisht is a shining example of how leadership can change the environment in which we live. She faced a number of hurdles along the way, but she had a never-say-die spirit which culminated in a better habitat for the residents of one colony of Delhi.

If every colony of Delhi takes a leaf out of her book, and has someone with the leadership shown at West End, the water problem of Delhi will be solved not by the state but by the leadership initiative of its residents.

In the words of the noted American aviation pioneer and author, Amelia Earhart “Some of us have great runways already built for us. If you have one, take off! But if you don’t have one, realize it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who will follow after you.”

First Non-North American to Serve as President of the ICF:Press Release

International Coach Federation welcomes Karen Tweedie, PCC, of Australia to the role



LEXINGTON, Ky., Dec 16, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ —



 On January 1, Karen Tweedie, PCC(1), will make history as she assumes the role as the International Coach Federation’s first non-North American president. The Australian will join 15 other officers and directors-at-large from 10 countries to form the 2009 global ICF Board of Directors.

Tweedie has been coaching professionally in both the public and private sector for 16 years and has held various positions of ICF leadership, including: President of the International Coach Federation Australasia in 2005; Secretary/Treasurer of the global ICF Board in 2007; and President-elect of the global ICF Board in 2008.

“I am thrilled to be leading the ICF into 2009. It is a great honor for me, as well as those in the Australasian region, to have the opportunity to serve as the first non-North American president of this global coaching association,” said Tweedie.

“There are many opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the ICF and professional coaching at large in the coming year, but with the expertise and collective knowledge of the global Board, I am certain that we, as an international association, will continue to advance the art, science and practice of professional coaching throughout the world.”

Joining Tweedie on the 2009 ICF Board is: (*Indicates new member to the global ICF Board of Directors.)

    -- President-elect: Giovanna D'Alessio, MCC(2), (Italy);
    -- Past President: Diane Brennan, MCC, (USA);
    -- Secretary/Treasurer: Tom Hatton, PCC, (Ireland);
    -- Vice President: Marilyn O'Hearne, MCC, (USA);
    -- Vice President: Lene Ronning-Arnesen, PCC, (Norway);
    -- Vice President: Garry Schleifer, PCC, (Canada);
    -- Director: John Annesley, PCC, (Australia);
    -- Director: Philip Brew, MCC, (UK);
    -- Director: Sylviane Cannio, PCC, (Belgium);
    -- Director: Daniele Darmouni, MCC, (France);
    -- Director: Ira Dressner, PCC, (USA) - beginning his second term on the
    -- Director: Janet Harvey, MCC, (USA)*;
    -- Director: Krissy Jackson, ACC(3), (Switzerland)*;
    -- Director: Ed Modell, PCC, (USA)*; and
    -- Director: Pat Obuchowski, ACC, (USA)*.

ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching is a distinct service and differs greatly from therapy, consulting, mentoring or training. Individuals who engage in a coaching relationship can expect to experience fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced thinking and decision-making skills, enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in carrying out their chosen work and life roles.

The International Coach Federation is the leading global organization for coaches, with over 15,000 members in 92 countries, dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high ethical standards, providing independent certification, and building a worldwide network of credentialed coaches. The ICF is the only organization that awards a global credential which is currently held by over 4,400 coaches worldwide..

Credentials awarded by the ICF: (1) PCC: Professional Certified Coach; (2) MCC: Master Certified Coach; and (3) ACC: Associate Certified Coach.


SOURCE International Coach Federation

Copyright (C) 2008 PR Newswire. All rights reserved




SOURCE International Coach Federation

Copyright (C) 2008 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

Time for Executive Coaches to Make a Difference : Response source (press release)

*      j Sir John Whitmore’s call to action to the coaching profession at the International Coach Federation’s (ICF) recent Make A Difference Day at London’s BT Centre, left them in no doubt on what their role should be in the global economic and environmental crises and beyond.

In his provocative keynote speech, entrepreneur and coaching leader Sir John (above) told the audience of more than 170 professional coaches they were uniquely placed to use their professional skills to force change, likening them to the “midwives at the birth of responsible society”.

Describing a world which is seeing a decline in leadership and values and where people have little respect for their elected leaders, Sir John said of coaching, “There could not be a function more urgently needed than one which advances self-responsibility.”

After Sir John’s speech, which was webcast live to ICF chapters worldwide, delegates joined a series of work streams to develop practical ways for coaches to use their professional skills for the benefit of the wider community.

The call to coaches to drive change in society struck a chord with Helen Caton Hughes of the Forton Group, co-sponsors of the event, which coaches leaders at all levels from the boardroom to the shop floor. “Leadership is not just about personal, professional and team success. It’s every leader at every level in society to make a difference locally and globally,” she said.

To download Sir John’s speech visit presentation download For further information on the International Coach Federation visit More information on the Forton Group is available on

“The Business Brain In Close-up:Business Week”

NeuroLeadership is a term coined in 2006 by David Rock.  It defines the field of study and exploration that involves looking at leadership development and human performance improvement through the lens of understanding how the brain works.

A recent article by Jena McGregor, in The Business Week July 23, 2007 said: “At Emory, researchers asked 16 executives to respond to PowerPoint slides about moral quandaries, such as acting on privileged information, while inside an MRI machine. They found that managers weighing ethical dilemmas use the part of their brain associated with early memories, which could mean moral thinking is formed early in life.”


Scientists have discovered that our brain is a connection machine. Our thoughts, memories, skills, and attributes are vast sets of connections or “maps” joined together via complex chemical and physical pathways. So when we process any new idea we create a map of that idea in our mind, and then compare it subconsciously in a fraction of a second to our existing maps. If we can find solid enough links between the new idea and our current maps, if we can find the connections, we create a new map that becomes part of who we are.

 Creating a new map takes up a lot of resources. Our brain needs to do a lot of comparing, associating, and matching any new idea with our existing maps. However, the creation of a new map releases substantial energy along with various neurotransmitters, and even changes the brain waves occurring. This is the stage when sudden spurt of gamma band activity is relaesed. There is a sudden, strong motivation for action. So it explains the job of the leaders to help people make their new connections.


Jena further points out “ Business school professors at Arizona State University and Emory University are working with neuroscientists to use electroencephalograph (EEG) machines and fMRIs to study the brain waves or images of executives rather than those of traditional undergraduates”

A lot of people in the companies are now being paid to think. Yet the management models we are applying to our workforces are still those of the process era. W e have not yet taught our leaders and managers how to improve thinking, they need to do so with extremely knowledgeable individuals. The increasing education and independence of employees is an important issue. Yet we have not yet reinvented our management models.

The new generations coming into management positions have different needs from their predecessors. They need leaders who help them fulfill their potential at work.

Leaders who improve their thinking.


[Rock and Schwartz] have been […] applying broader themes from neuroscience to leadership rather than trying to map individual managers’ brains. One of their main ideas emphasizes that mindful, focused attention on new management practices, rather than on old habits, can rewire the brain.(Jena Mc Gregor)


Science has shown us that we can change the way we think, and that’s not as hard as we’ve been assuming. Changing a habit, now that’s hard, but leaving it where it is and creating a whole new habit-that turns out to be far more achievable.

In the workplace context this insight says that if a manager is trying to improve an executive’s performance, then working out what’s wrong with their thinking is not going to be very productive stating the need for a whole new approach.

An exciting new domain within neuroscience called neuroplasticity found that the brain had a remarkable ability to repair itself when things went wrong. Scientists noticed that the brain was capable of creating new connections on a massive scale, at any stage of life, and this in response to anything new that was learned, such as learning to play an instrument. If we want to hardwire a new behavior we just need to give our new mental map enough attention over enough time to ensure it becomes embedded in our brain. We do this by making links to different parts of the brain so that the web of links thickens and spreads out.

Again in the workplace, to improve people’s performance, our job is to help them find new ways to approach situations that leaves their existing wiring where it is, and allows for the development and ultimately the hard wiring of new habits. This also means we need them to focus on solutions rather than problems. The need to `fix` behaviors and become fascinated with identifying and growing people’s strengths, an entirely other discipline. It is often seen that if the focus is on just improving thinking, rather than trying to understand or unravel it, the conversations are surprisingly quick and simple.


Jim Smalley, director of training and leadership development, has been working with Rock to school managers. One insight: Focus on just three goals to “quiet all the background noise in the brain,” says Smalley. The brain, they’re reminded, can hold only a few ideas at a time in its working memory.



The working memory vs. hard wiring: David and Schwartz compare the working memory to a stage used for understanding, making decisions, and remembering. However the challenges are that it has limited capacity, is easily distracted and is energy intensive. They call it the spotlight of attention.


Jeffery Schwartz says “An important and well verified law in quantum mechanics called Quantum Zeno Effect turns out to be the key to understanding how focused attention can systematically re-wire the brain…..If you pay enough attention to a certain set of brain connections, it keeps this relevant circuitry stable, open and dynamically alive, enabling it to eventually becoming a part of the brain’s hard wiring.