008: Vulnerability Is An Essential Leadership Skill with Michelle Holland

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In the corporate world, vulnerability is typically perceived as a weakness. By its definition alone, vulnerability seems not to fit in the same sentence with leadership. If you are honest with yourself, there are moments where you feel vulnerable. Leaders are no different; just like you and me, they also need to express their emotions. However, society has come to expect people in leadership to ooze with confidence and never show their weakness. This is where we go wrong. 

 A leader who understands the power of vulnerability does not feel the need to be the first to talk or come up with new ideas. Being vulnerable allows you to see through the eyes of your team. In so doing, you invite people to become drivers of the conversation.

 “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” Brene Brown

 In today’s episode, we decipher the business approach to vulnerability, vulnerability in leadership, and why you should embrace vulnerability as a leader.


  • Getting to know Michelle (1:40)

  • Business Culture space (5:17)

  • Curiosity (6:58)

  • People problem solving (7:30)

  • Anthropology meets corporate (8:10)

  • How we are influenced by the people around us (8:38)

  • Brene Brown (9:35)

  • Why part of the process is in being vulnerable (10:29)

  • You do not do vulnerability; vulnerability does you (12:00)

  • If you protect yourself from negative feelings, you protect yourself from positive ones as well (14:24) 

  • The trust exercise (15:18)

  • The lazy girl’s approach to life (17:30)

  • Leaders Struggling with their identity (19:40)

  • If you don’t like it, you can change it (20:00)

  • The acceptance of vulnerability (21:50)

  • Empathy (23:02) 

  • Feeling with somebody (24:01)

  • How empathy works alongside compassion (30:20)

  • Being there for people without taking over their emotions (26:55)

  • Empathy is compassion in action (30:20)

  • Self-compassion as a skill (31:15)

  • Going through things individually and collectively (32:45) 

  • The soft skills that leaders should be learning about (33:20)

  • Giving and receiving feedback (34:21)

  • Providing observational feedback (34:55)

  • Why humans need to feel like they are contributing (36:19)

  • How feedback has become a scary word (37:03)

  • Teaching people on how to receive feedback (38:40)

  • The act of reinforcement (41:50)

  • The top 5 tips (44:55) 

  • Being human first (45:07)

  • Understanding the differences in people (46:19)

  • Holding people accountable (48:50)

  • Acknowledging other people’s feelings (51:16)

  • What do you want? (53:05)

  • Understanding that fear and feelings are part of the process (57:20)

  • Being self-compassionate (57:40) 



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Michelle’s dream is to create workplaces where people are valued and feel safe, and organisations that are great places to work and do business.

Leveraging her interest in people and organisational development, she traded in her accounting career to pursue her undergraduate and graduate degrees in human behaviour, organisational development and ethics.


In 2013, after holding a range of positions in human resources and senior management, Michelle founded SynergyIQ a management consultancy.


Michelle now runs SynergyIQ with her two business partners, and a team of amazing consulting and change professionals who specialises in leadership development, culture, change management, and business transformation. 

An experienced leadership coach and culture strategist, Michelle’s professional associations and accreditations include the Australian Human Resource Institute (CAHRI), Human Synergistics (OCI/OEI/LSI), the Leaders Institute of South Australia (GLF2013) and is a Certified DARE TO LEAD™ Facilitator.