Home Blog & Media Conversations about courage and humility in leadership

Conversations about courage and humility in leadership

November 8, 2022

Share this Post


Lynne Gilliland

Lynne Gilliland Consulting

At what point do soft skills outperform hard skills in leadership? Looking back at leadership through the decades, what was previously required and admired has shifted from tactically driven capabilities to emotional intelligence and expertise.

This week in Lessons from Leaders, host Lynne Gilliland sits down with two leaders who share their experiences and views on soft skills like courage, risk analysis, trauma transformations and humility.

Tjada D’Oyen McKenna

Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, President, and CEO of Mercy Corps, shares a deeply personal conversation around courage in her organization.

"There is a personal courage all leaders have because they are willing to say, 'Hold me accountable' when they take on the role of a leader."

Tjada D’Oyen McKenna President, and CEO, Mercy Corps

She continues, “Courage is taking risks. If no one is upset or ruffled by your decisions, then you might not really be making change. There is courage in moving the status quo. What got you to where you are now is not the thing that will take you to the next level.”

Tjada shares her personal definition of courage, which she describes as “A willingness to be wrong, a willingness to admit you make mistakes, and a willingness to ask for help.”

Listen to the episode with Tjada for more on her leadership story and experiences.

Uma Viswanathan

Uma Viswanathan, Executive Director at New Pluralists Collaborative, sits in the leadership chair to address trauma and transformations.

This episode starts with Uma sharing her experience as a child of an immigrant family and how that led her to a deep curiosity about people, their motivations, and their perspectives. It was this place of curiosity that ultimately led Uma to her position in leadership with New Pluralists.

In our conversation about her unique world views, Uma shares her insights towards personal trauma and its place in a work organization. She says, “Some leaders think we need to be completely healed from trauma before we can lead, when actually the process of leading and being challenged allows us to grow in our capacity to digest and learn. Healing then happens while leading.” I loved this conversation about trauma and how it can transform not just a leader but an organization.

Further in our conversation, at 25 minutes, Uma mentions a goal she has set for New Pluralists and some of the criticism she has received for their strategy. She has chosen an emergent strategy over a deliberate strategy. This leans into unplanned actions and initiatives – leaping with faith, unsure of the outcome. I applaud her choices and tenacity.

“We have set a goal with an emergent approach that requires collaborative efforts. The truth is, our goal is so big we need help. It is too big for our organization, solely. We made it so purposefully because it causes us to think differently and transformatively.”

Uma Viswanathan Executive Director, New Pluralists Collaborative

As Uma continues, she says something I had to write down, “Some people set goals that are too realistic. This way, they do exactly what they’ve always done. Instead, we took a leap of faith into uncertainty, because in history, those are the decisions that have moved us.”

The boldness, vulnerability, and nobility of Uma and her leadership shine in this episode. It is one of our most unique conversations to date. I can’t wait to continue following Uma and New Pluralists on what I am sure will be more lessons learned in their pursuit of that big goal. Thank you, Uma.

Real conversations. Current topics. Honest leaders. Found wherever you listen to podcasts. You can hear top tips from leaders across the world. Lynne and her guests discuss everything from success to failure, fear to courage, and the path to growth. Listen today!


Check out Humentum’s Leadership Behavior for NGOs course