Step Outside Your Closet

When I watched this TED talk, at first it didn’t feel strictly like a leadership blog.

But the more I listened to this inspiring, honest and intelligent talk by Ash Beckham, the more I saw the leadership lessons within.

She draws attention to the fact we all have our own closets. The world needs us to step outside those isolated, dark spaces, as much as we do.

If you are sitting in an airport lounge, are putting off the presentation you should be working on, or have had a hard week and need a little soul candy, watching this clip is a great way to procrastinate.

Here are just a few gems I took away which relate to effective leadership:

1. Authenticity – the value of being real with each other and yourself. “Be authentic. Take the armor off. Be yourself.”

2. Empathy – “Hard is not relative. Hard is hard. Who can tell me that explaining to someone you’ve just declared bankruptcy is harder than telling someone you just cheated on them? Who can tell me that his coming out story is harder than telling your five-year-old you’re getting a divorce? There is no harder, there is just hard.”

3. Be direct – “Just say it. Rip the Band-Aid off.”  Too often we think we can’t be brutally honest and direct without being ruthless. Brutal honesty and compassion can go hand in hand.

4. Don’t apologise – “You are speaking your truth. Never apologize for that. And some folks may have gotten hurt along the way, so sure, apologize for what you’ve done, but never apologize for who you are. And yeah, some folks may be disappointed, but that is on them, not on you. Those are their expectations of who you are, not yours. That is their story, not yours. The only story that matters is the one that you want to write.”

As a leader, ditto – apologise when you stuff up and get it wrong, but never be apologetic for who you are as a leader.

And most importantly, remember – a closet, whatever your “closet” may be, is no place for a person to live.


  1. Wayne Densem on February 27, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Excellent Suzi


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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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