CEO & Author

These tensions are what leaders live in trying to balance relationships and the needed distance that allows for exacting decisions, the tension of transparency and privacy, and the tension of action and reflection.

Leadership can be a boring topic, seriously, but this convo isn’t and wasn’t.

Alain defines leadership as the performing art of getting others to work towards a shared purpose, emphasizing the impact of one's words and actions on others through 3 specific pillars that we dive deep on: connection, communication, and collaboration.

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In this episode we’re talking with Alain Hunkins about tension.

These tensions are what leaders live in trying to balance relationships and the needed distance that allows for exacting decisions, the tension of transparency and privacy, and the tension of action and reflection.

Leadership can be a boring topic, seriously, but this convo isn’t and wasn’t.

Alain defines leadership as the performing art of getting others to work towards a shared purpose, emphasizing the impact of one's words and actions on others through 3 specific pillars that we dive deep on: connection, communication, and collaboration.  

Over his 25-year career, Alain Hunkins has worked with over 3,000 groups of leaders in 27 countries, including 42 of the Fortune 100 companies. In addition to being an executive coach, leadership and team development facilitator and keynote speaker, Alain is the author of the book, CRACKING THE LEADERSHIP CODE: Three Secrets to Building Strong Leaders (published by Wiley, March 2020)

Alain is a faculty member of Duke Corporate Education and serves on the Academic Board of Advisors for the New Delhi Institute of Management. Alain’s work has been featured in Chief Executive, Fast Company, Inc., Training Magazine, Chief Learning Officer, and Business Insider. He’s also a monthly leadership strategy contributor to Forbes Magazine. Alain is the CEO of Hunkins Leadership Group, a leadership consultancy based in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Listen in now for an intentional perspective on how to handle tension and the opportunity they present in defining your leadership.

Find out more about Alain here and his book, Cracking the Leadership Code

Follow him on LinkedIn.

Watch his TEDx talk.

Alain is offering 2 complimentary seats per company to enroll in the next 30-Day Leadership Challenge. For more info and coupon codes, email 30 days starts on (publish date)! 

Check out all things Dia Bondi here.

Dia Bondi  00:19


Hey everyone, this is Lead With Who You Are. I'm Dia Bondi, and on this show, we explore and discover what it means for you and me and all of us to lead with who we are. And today we're doing it with Alain Hunkins, Author of Cracking the Leadership Code. We talk in this episode about tensions, tensions leader live in trying to balance relationship building and the need for distance, the kind that allows you to make exacting decisions, the tension that we have to live in between exercising transparency, but maintaining privacy, the tension that lives between action and reflection. Leadership can be a really boring topic seriously. But in this Convo, I don't think we were too boring. At least it wasn't for me. And I hope it won't be for you as we unpack these tensions, and get you into action so you can lead with who you are. Let's go.  Hey, just a quick reminder, you can subscribe to this show on your podcast platform of choice. We're live nearly everywhere. And you can always listen to the show at If there's a leader or innovator in your life, who is it their shiniest when they lead with who they truly are, Please share the show with them. And rate subscribe, and leave us a review makes a huge difference in the reach that the show has. When you let everyone else know what you love about the show. Thanks so much.  Ask Like An Auctioneer, the book, is available now for pre order. In the book, you'll learn to ask for more and get it using what I learned in my impact hobby of fundraising auctioneering and you won't hear about a bunch of fundraising galahs but you will hear stories from women in product high tech Small Business who've all learned to ask like an auctioneer and ended up making the kinds of asks that could change everything. Pre order it today and then head over to the website to get your free pre order bonuses. Bonuses, so great you probably won't even need to read the book. But I know you'll want to wherever you buy your books online now.  Alain Hunkins helps leaders teams and companies achieve performance goals easier. Over his 25 year career, les has worked with over 3000 groups of leaders in 27 countries, including 42 of the Fortune 100 companies. In addition to being an executive coach, leadership and team development facilitator and keynote speaker, Allah is the author of the book cracking the leadership code three secrets to building strong leaders. He is a faculty member at Duke corporate education and serves on the academic board of advisors for the New Delhi Institute of Management. His work has been featured in chief executive Fast Company, training magazine and many other publications and he is a regular contributor to Forbes magazine. He is the CEO of Hunter's Leadership Group, a leadership consultancy based in Northampton, Massachusetts. Now, we usually have amazing audio quality on this show. And unfortunately, on this show, we had a little bit of a glitch. So you'll hear that the audio quality from my side isn't as good as you're used to. But we're fixing that right up in the next episode. It'll be tip top again. Alain, I'm so happy to have you on we've been who you are. So I'm having you on the show  Because you live in the world of leadership. And you're you've written a book called Cracking the Leadership Code and you have a framework or at least there's sort of like a three pillar structure to how you think about leadership that says that connection collaboration and communication are there's sort of the three corners book cornerstones of leadership. Do I have that right?


Alain Hunkins  04:11

You have it completely right. I might put in connection communication and collaboration, but you have it, you got it. You nailed it. Nailed it.


Dia Bondi  04:17

Great. Great. Okay, so wrong order, but right components. I wanted to talk about those things today. But also importantly, I wanted to talk about the tensions that are that occur for people in their real life leadership in those in some of those areas, so we can lead with who we are, even as we grapple with those tensions. Okie dokie


Alain Hunkins  04:37

I love that. I love the idea. Like that makes it much more in depth three dimensional conversation. So I'm happy to go wherever you want to


Dia Bondi  04:44

cool. Yeah, it's just that, you know, it's so easy to say, you know, the three components are but then once we dive into it, there's always all of these other externalities and you know, but what about this? There's other dynamics that step into there and you can't tell? Yeah, you can get stuck. So I want to talk about that. So let's start with the first question that I always start with, which is like who so that I've already recorded your intro, which includes your bio and all your accomplishments. And that's a lot about you. But if you were to answer the question, Who am I? Now? How would you do that?


Alain Hunkins  05:15

Wow, that's this today that feels like a pretty deep question, Who am I now I think part of it is that I'm also in transition, I feel like I'm in a transitional point, my oldest child, my son, who's 19, just went off to college for the first time. So I'm halfway to being empty nest with my wife. And then we've got another child who's She's a junior in high school. And it's yet another rite of passage, I think, you know, life is filled with rituals and rites of passage. And this was yet another one. I think, as I think about who I am, it's the word that comes to mind is, well, it's not it's one of those two words give back. It's like, I like I just feel like I have been given lots of lessons, learnings, insights from various teachers mentors in the world. And what I tried to do, you know, we talked about this kind of connection, communication, collaboration, it's, I tried to take a lot of ideas, and go through the muck of the complexity and make it more simple. And so I think at this point, I'm really about trying to how can I give back and help people to, first of all realize, I think so many of us I know, I've experienced the sense that, you know, we kind of struggle with things alone. And I find that so many of the struggles that I face and others face, other people are dealing with, you know, I think it'd be so nice if we just didn't had some support and realize, yeah, when I'm going through, other people are going through right now. So yeah, it feels like a transitional time, to me feels like a very liminal transitional time.


Dia Bondi  06:46

Right. So as you thank you for that, I feel that as well as my kids are 13 and 16. And I can like, feel that my the way in which I identify as a parent is shifting and like the things that I say about myself and my parenting has to kind of update with their new selves. You know, like, it's a weird, I'm a little bit like, where do I put my hands on? Nobody needs a snack plate. Nobody needs a diaper change, arrange any playdates? Like they're telling me what their lives are. I'm not, you know, I'm not I don't control anything anymore. And that's a really bizarre place to be. And, you know, actually, I'm needing to do a lot less parenting and a lot more leadership in my household. I mean, if you think about it that way. Yeah.


Alain Hunkins  07:32

And I think for me, one of the big things too, with my son going off to college was I realized that, wow, my opportunity to be the in person live and role model. Like, that's it. I'm pretty much done. I was like, I think back I think crap, there's some things I think I could have done better. You know, I mean, there's some things that I would well, I'm pleased with a lot of it. But there's a lot of things I think too, like oh, yeah, like and again, it comes back to how could I have been more attentive, more tuned, more connected? Right, there's always room for improvement. So that's just something that's been on my mind lately.


Dia Bondi  08:01

Well, it's not over. I mean, we parent forever. I want yeah, I watched recently, folks who are listening, if you haven't done it, the I think it's the last dance the story of the Chicago Bulls 13. Game, or I'm saying it all wrong. But anyway, their time with Jordan and he, there was a moment where he was cut to something mid career or a sort of mid later career where he was accepting an award. And his mom was sitting in the front row in this huge audience, they cut to her well, he said, there's my mom, everyone give a round of applause. He was like, I'm 45 years old, and my mom, she's still parenting me every day. And I just I was so beautiful that even as a grown man, you get recognized, I'm getting choked up talking about it the ways in which, you know, she continues to parent him in a way that he probably needs now, not when he was 15. So we always, you know, there's silly for us to do. So how do you I was grappling with this. And I was thinking about it the other day as it comes and goes into my, into my awareness. Like getting back to sort of in a central, how do you define leadership as somebody who's steeped in it all the time?


Alain Hunkins  09:01

Sure. So I define leadership, I start by saying that leadership is a performing art. Okay, it is the performing art of getting others to willingly work with you towards achieving a shared purpose. And the reason I say it's a performing art is because, well, a couple of a couple of reasons. One is if you boil it down, ultimately, your leadership, how it shows up isn't what you intend, it's how is it being seen by the other person. So in other ways, you're on stage, you know, we're playing a role we step into the role of leadership and it basically boils down to your words, your behavior, right? That's your tone of voice, your body language, you are the instruments. And I come by this because part of it is my background is so I have my graduate degrees. I'm an MFA from an acting conservatory, right. So I spent three years literally under the microscope, taking human behavior apart and putting it back together again, because that's what actors do right when they're taking on character. So, for me, it's very much understanding that everything you do and As a leader has an impact, and everything you don't do and say has an impact too. And what you know, if you look at the performing arts, sometimes you have to recognize some stuff has to end up on the cutting room floor, right to use a film analogy there. And so for me, it's understanding what's the frame? What's the context? Who's the audience coming into this? And what's the relationship because the performing arts don't live in a vacuum and only exists until there's an audience and there's this interplay this back and forth. And the other thing, you know, I'm a big fan of collaboration and teamwork. And before I got into acting, my whole family on my dad's side are professional musicians. And I was a violinist, I started playing at the age of five, I played it, I went to the fame High School in New York City for violin and all that stuff. And but you know, it's so interesting, because I think oftentimes in business settings, we use sports analogies all the time, right? It's like win, lose, win, lose. But you know, there's another type of team. And it's a team that doesn't have a scoreboard. It's an Arts team, right? An orchestra is a team, and the level of listening and give and take and collaboration that to make that work well, is just off the charts. And I think that so many people could benefit from that idea. So I love this idea of leadership as a performing art. And that as a leader, you know, in some ways, it isn't about you, like the conductor never makes a noise and the orchestra yet is leading this entire group of people. And I think for us as leaders, it's important, it isn't about you tooting the horn, right. It's about making sure whatever horn or whatever I'm using these to get played, is being played.


Dia Bondi  11:28

There's a beautiful TED talk has been floating around the internet for a long time called lead, like the great conductors, if folks haven't seen it, it's worth it's worth checking out, because it's a beautiful example of, unfortunately, it's all dudes, but nonetheless, you know, that's historic in that space as well. It's changing. But the it's just a beautiful example of like, how much impact without any voice these folks are having on helping me how large are they? How large is the full orchestra? 100? Folks, how many can be can be 100 people? Yeah, for sure. Yeah, to make it all work, and to notice what's what's not working and the impact that we're having on musicians, individually and collectively. So this is a great, what's kind of shows up, you know, in my coaching work often is like, well, that's not me, you know, when you say step into a role, you're playing a role. And some things need to get, you know, to end up on the cutting on the cutting room floor. I think of it, and I'm curious, your thoughts is like growing range, like because you might develop out a part or an aspect of who you are that you need to call on in particular situations and develop, get into get to develop it and get to know that part doesn't mean it's not you, it means you're growing range in the ways in which you can show up that the audience, you know, our teams, our organization that culture needs, given your role.


Alain Hunkins  12:51

So much. So, I think that, you know, to your point of growing the range is like anything that's new, it's uncomfortable, because it's not if it was your comfort zone, it's not new, it's familiar. And if we're going to keep growing, we have to grow into that comfort outside of the comfort zone. And I love this idea. In fact, one of my colleagues is in a guy named Eduardo Virginia just wrote a new book called The Performance paradox. He worked with Carol Dweck all it's all about mindset, and this whole sense of, basically, how do you live? You know, so often we have this paradox, we think we're either performing or we're learning. And as opposed to how can we learn by doing as we perform, if we reflect on it, and I think, you know, the opportunity for all of us is to step back and go, Oh, right, I want to try this on. And then instead of kind of going to that fixed mindset of like, I try that I suck, I can't do that. Like, as opposed to going, Oh, what did I learn and being more of a scientist and a researcher, to see what's working, and then try a different approach? Try something new. Try it again. You know, I mean, I like to coach leaders some time to say, like, Look, if you go to the gym, once, you can't then go clap your hands. I'm done. I did it once. I was like, this isn't for me. Like all these things. Take persistence and consistency. I mean, that's, you know, I feel like so much of the stuff that I teach ends up being these are simple tools. And what separates out great effective leaders from mediocre ones is that they apply this stuff on a regular basis, but let's face it, like consistency, doesn't sell it's not sexy.


Dia Bondi  14:22

So you talk a little bit about how the command and control model leadership is done. Like we're not a system of mainframe computers and like external nodes anymore, we're much more distributed, you know, network of people taking action, hopefully toward a shared goal. And you say that there that you say that there is too much action and not enough reflections? You know, this is a question I was planning on asking you is sort of perfect that you've brought it up right now. But I find that working and you know, sort of one of these first tensions, right reflection and action that's a place to live in those two polarities, you know, not just like bouncing between them but living in the tension of Have them. And I find that working with a lot of leads, particularly, you know, VC backed founders who have to move really friggin fast, because they got a heavy board, they got short runway, and they are like, they gotta go, you know. And when I say they, I mean, the, you know, the things that they're promising the world that is hopefully going to get actioned through the teams that they assemble and the talent that they bring on to help them with it. But there is still very much like, owned by the founder, you know, and so you say, there's too much action and non reflection, but I find that working with leaders, that they actually often, you know, have the opposite experience where they're so concerned, you know, leaders today know that they're under the microscope, that people say yes to working with them, not just because it's a great product, but because there's values alignment, that the kind of impact it's having in the world. So they want workers knowledge workers even want a lot from their jobs a lot. And so founders that I, you know, work with, they feel that that gaze, you know, and so sometimes they can be doing a lot of reflection around their concerns around what they're not seeing and who else they should be before they can act. And that sometimes gets them to hesitate. Can you talk about that a little bit? How do we get haven't had we've had a leaders and founders get unstuck when they're noticing that?


Alain Hunkins  16:23

Sure. Yeah. And by the way, when I talk about kind of too much action on reflection, I'm speaking obviously, generally, right? So this is kind of an if I look kind of generally this kind of comes out of my working kind of we'll call it mainstream corporate America over the last 25 years. That's the general. Now the good news is like, you're saying, you've got these VC backed founders who might be taking an already have, like, made the shift and realize that the old school way isn't working, and they're wanting to do it in another way. And yeah, they only grew


Dia Bondi  16:49

up in that, like, a lot of these folks are digital natives. You know, they're in their 30s. They even have a workplace experience of command and control. Yeah,


Alain Hunkins  16:57

yeah. So in that case, then the pendulum is flip to the other side, right. And now it's a question of, okay, so what do we need to do? Okay, and it's that trusting that you're, if you're already focused enough on the people side and the value side? Well, then let's get focused on the action side, too, right? Because I mean, the tendency, you know, and I see this where, you know, like, well, it's important that we all agree to everything and like, no, like, consensus is good for certain things. But the big cost of consensus is time. And you've got to get stuff done. Consensus is not a great decision making model. And also, most people don't even know what true consensus process and how it was designed, and what's it for, and how it's used. And we kind of throw around the word consensus, like we know what we're talking about, but we don't necessarily know. So yeah, I mean, I'd say, this is where I'd say, you know, as a leader hold up the mirror, I mean, there's no one size fits all, as they ask yourself, you know, on that continuum between action and reflection, where do you stand and beyond? What do you think, get some feedback from people that you trust, and not just your mom and your dog? Not really asked people that will give you the honest truth, and then calibrate your action accordingly?


Dia Bondi  18:11

Right, yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. I think there is a little bit of like, well, I always have to operate in a paradigm of consensus building. And without, again, without a the skills or true understanding of like, how to engage and facilitate consensus that is good and productive, it will actually help us speed speed up, where we're trying to go together. And this can be a really difficult, you know, and it's not to say that, you know, the leaders that I work with have, you know, values and, you know, their their people functions on lock. They don't necessarily, but they do feel the burning heat of people's gaze around like, well, if my leaders not, they feel like if their leader isn't perfect, then you know, the entire thing is, I have to do everything perfectly, or the entire thing is gonna get canceled.


Alain Hunkins  18:56

Yeah. And so Gary, the one thing I would suggest to leaders in that situation is I think a lot of folks tend to when they are kind of carrying the mantle, and the burden of that responsibility, is they feel like it's theirs to bear by themselves. And I think one thing that may be really useful is to make your implicit assumptions explicit, that is, go to the teams and say, hey, just to let you know, I have these concerns. But also, we have to get this stuff done. And I'm and share your internal tension with them. Because they'll recognize Oh, you're a human being like the rest of us, you're dealing with these tensions, intent instead of thinking that you have to somehow keep it all neat and tidy and clean, because let's face it, life is not neat and tidy and clean. And so the more that you can bring people along, like the more trust and then the more people are going to engage and commit to you and whatever project you're working on.


Dia Bondi  19:49

That speaks to the power of having a an executive team built around you that you can really trust. I mean, and you know that are I'm going to say that Good. Yeah, you know. So okay, I want to move forward a little bit. I'm in chapter three, which you sent over. Thanks so much I took a look at it and the, the you cite a study by Towers Watson and Oxford Economics, who asks employers what skills managers and employees will need, will need most in the next five to 10 years. And the top priority came back as relationship building. So this is a again, I want to unpack a little bit of a tension that happens in here. So beyond, you know, that sort of top rank thing was for folks listening was teaming, co creativity, brainstorming, cultural sensitivity and ability to manage diverse employees. Relationship Building is super interesting to me, because so many of the founders that I work with, live in, again, a space of tension, and get a little confused around boundaries, relationships, that they want to help people feel seen. I mean, just yesterday, I was on a client call and the client was like, this team is freaking out, because they don't feel seen yet. And they're saying they want to participate in something, they have no idea how to actually, but they want me to give them the answer to the thing they say they need to create. They want ownership, but they also want to be told what to do. And I'm, and they want to be seen. But I also am like I don't like what I see isn't something they want to hear about. So the and so there's this thing where like people want and founders and leaders want to have connection with their teams, they want to invest in relationships, but then that can eat them alive at the same time, because they failed to hold enough distance, space that allows them to both execute and make decisions that are important for the business and feel like it's not directly harming individuals by saying no, not that we're doing this. At the same time, they can sabotage their own ability to make, you know, swift and exacting decisions because they feel loyal to the relationships that might be in conflict with where the business needs to go. So how do how do leaders and I see leaders and founders because a lot of founders that work with they were product leads inside their organizations, and now they're founders and experiencing leadership for the first time, not the fifth time, you know? How do you think about exercising the that weird, permeable wall between too much closeness with your teams to have the kind of relationship that can consume your decision making, and enough, and yet people feeling like you're connected to the org?


Alain Hunkins  22:29

Great questions. And I love the context, too. So here's the thing, I think so many of us, we tend to, you know, we live in a culture of sound bites, and it's this sense of like, Oh, here's the next big thing, right? So we hear like, empathy, empathy, you know, like, everyone, we got to do empathy at work and this, look at anything in in and of itself, you take it to its nth degree, it's gonna bite you in the ass, right? It just is. It's so yeah, empathy without accountability is gonna, what's that going to turn into? Right? And so, you know, or like people say, like, our organization, and we're like a family, I cringe when I hear people talk about their company, like a family. It's like, you don't fire your kids. Like things don't You don't suddenly mean it's, it's not a family. It's a business we're running. So for me, I think about this is, you know, this goes back to your initial original idea around holding tension is like, yes, relationships. Yes, empathy, yes. Connection. Yes, trust, and notice not but but and clear expectations, clear accountability, clear milestones for like, when you hit this, this is what happens when you don't hit this, this is what happens, but we have to put those things in place, and have these conversations upfront, it's kinda like, you know, you know, again, you look at, like, the rates of marriage and divorce, right? The sense of like, what do we want, as opposed to hope is not a strategy, just kind of thinking, Oh, we're just gonna get get down to work and do all this stuff. And we're all gonna get along, and maybe it's all going to be great. And, you know, from my experience on that, when is that happening is, you know, the proverbial bumps come along in the road. And most people aren't that comfortable and dealing with conflict and disagreement. So it goes underground, and then it tends to fester and grow and blow up eventually, and then it gets messy. So no, let's just have these conversations upfront around, what's this going to look like? And making sure that that works for you, as the founder, you know, being really clear on expectations, and can they be renegotiated? Potentially, but if we don't have them upfront, it changes the dynamic considerably.


Dia Bondi  24:29

I know one thing, there is a desperation around how do I communicate this change to a particular leader? Maybe they're asking them to step aside to or down or, you know, they're, they're changing what is owned and like, and they have strong relationship with them, etc. How do I do it so they will feel no pain and leaders aren't ready to even talk about it until they have a plan of how they can both say what needs to happen and make it possible for whoever they're talking to to have absolutely zero Row reaction to it. And it's an unrealistic expectation. And so you know, one of the things that I consistently go back to is like you have as a leader, ah, say it but as a leader, and this is not influenced. So I'm the same as influence. As a leader, you have a lot of power. The question isn't, you know, how do you exercise it, it's how can you tolerate having it, like, you get to make the decision, and you are going to have to suffer the discomfort that comes with executing that decision, and let other people believing they are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole, and will recover from the discomfort of this change. There's a lot of of trying to figure out how to have it both ways. How old are they? So am I am I being too mean? Or is this a thing?


Alain Hunkins  25:49

This is totally a thing. In fact, as you're saying this, it's reminded me of a book I read years ago by a philosopher named Peter Kestenbaum, who did some work with Peter block the consultant. And he wrote this book called freedom and accountability at work. And he said, basically, the price of freedom and accountability, which, you know, basically you're referring to here with leaders and power, the price is anxiety, right? And so it's what comes to mind to me, is like, yeah, you know, what the burden of that is gonna make you anxious, because it's up to you to make those decisions. And that is part of the price of admission,


Dia Bondi  26:23

and you cannot anesthetize people to the impact of the decisions that will have to be made along the trajectory of their careers, and the businesses they they decide to participate in.


Alain Hunkins  26:32

No, no, and I think it's reasonable to is also, you know, you're dealing with people, you know, outside of work, who, in a lot of ways, you know, they run their households and their families, these are, we're adults, right? And so this idea that somehow you have to infantilize them, and go like, Well, I gotta take care of all these things and figure these things out. It's like, no, like, for example, look at the pandemic, right, that came out of nowhere for most people, 99% of us, like, you know, and I think it's reasonable in a situation like that to say, I don't know what's going to happen to you, I don't know what's going to happen to me, I don't know what's going to happen to this business. I don't know what's gonna happen next week. You know, as opposed to thinking, Oh, we have a six point plan and just wait for it's coming out. I mean, that just, again, this unrealistic expectation of leader as omniscient superhero, all seeing all knowing, and like, we've got to give that up. You know, I think we have this romance with this idea. Like, if I can do that, look how it feeds some ego part of us that somehow thinks we're special. And we're human. And wonder


Dia Bondi  27:32

why we wonder why founders burnout early. I mean, they flame out. Totally, it's real. I think also, our culture has put almost an inhuman expectation on leaders inside of at least at least inside of the the tech startup community, you know, that we, what is Scott Galloway talks about the idolatry of innovators have made these people just into superheroes, and it's really, it's not just not human, it's inhumane, to the existing, you know, 10s of 1000s of founders today, they're trying to build something meaningful, and do it in a way that is human. It's really interesting. You talk about this like exactly setting up my next question, I want to talk about transparency. It's something you talk a little bit about in the book. And, you know, transparency is just even that you're saying, like, we don't have all the answers, I don't have a six point plan that's going to execute perfectly all cozied up like a tight little, you know, well made, well made bed, it's not going to happen. But here's what we're thinking about, like, there's a level of transparency, you're exercising, by narrating the process of the things you don't know, the things that you do know, without actually being confessing, you know, without making what you don't know everyone else's problem. So I'm curious. And I also see founders, particularly suffer, trying to figure out what level of transparency makes sense, where they're being honest and open, you know, I have a fair bit of experience in the open source community, I know what transparency looks like in that space. And also having enough boundary such that they're not just transferring their anxiety on to the organization. So I think to set up the question, I think transparency in my experience is sort of a vague term, maybe like consensus, we don't really know what we mean when we say transparent. And like I mentioned, we're in relationship to connection and building relationships, you know, maintaining enough distance and space to be able to hold an honor particular decisions, as we think about, you know, transparency to have it be both giving you a container where you're you have privacy in your thinking and decision making with the bench of folks that help you do that. But also exercise transparency at a level that makes people feel like you can trust you. They can trust you. There's another tension there.


Alain Hunkins  29:44

I was going to say exactly that. Like I'm hearing a theme in our conversation today, which is yet another tension yet another paradox of it's not all this or all that it's a both and right and so on the one hand, transparency like oh, yes, I hear that's like It's empathy. It's like transparency, it's great, we've got to do this. So you're transparent. And like you can't, you know, people don't want to hear your verbal stew and soup, they don't need to hear all that Not to mention, whatever kind of legal things you cannot share, there are certain things you're not at liberty to share for whatever reasons. So it's finding that it's against the Goldilocks thing, right? Not too hot, not too cold, what's the just right balance and for us, as leaders to have the wisdom to be able to discern that, and all hopefully having the right support system? You know, going back to what you said about having the right executive team to kind of figure that out? What's the impact going to be? And then how can we do all that and iterate through that in a way that no, we could spend weeks trying to figure that out? I don't


Dia Bondi  30:44

know. How can we? That's the question. How do we, I think, I think it comes from powerful reflection questions, you know, so that, you know, around like, Okay, well, you exercise some level of transparency. Last time, what did you notice? What worked? What gets you in the ass? And align with your own values? Not just the organization's values? Like, where is that boundary that gives you enough privacy and a space for you to do the difficult decision making to grapple with the bigger questions, the existential questions of your business? Yeah. But then also, like, it's in the debrief of experiences, where you get to get into relationship and name and claim where those not too hot, not too cold, exist for you?


Alain Hunkins  31:26

Yeah, very much. So. And I think that, you know, within that, you know, that what comes to mind to me around this is, the sense of, you know, part of transparency, we could say is a vulnerability, you know, it's another word that gets thrown around, you have to be, you know, as a leader, you have to be vulnerable. Well, yes. But like, as one of my colleagues like to say, it's business level vulnerability, right? We're not asking you to share your deepest, darkest secrets, right? So, so we so as a leader, yes, sharing something that feels a little bit personal, a little bit. And again, a little bit can mean different things to different people. But something where people go, Oh, I get it, my leader, they're human. They're trying, this is what they're letting me know what's going on, to the point where when I hear what they're saying, at that level, I go, I get it, and I can relax, and I can trust and I can lean in and engage further in the process.


Dia Bondi  32:18

Yeah. So as you say that I'm kind of answering my own question here for folks, you know, listening who maybe are my former clients, this feels familiar, like when I think so I live really lives specifically in the space not of team building and leadership, you know, not in business, not necessarily like being a business operator, but around leadership communication, and how leaders can think about using their voice as a tool to align and activate people, teams and cultures towards shared goals instead of just thinking of it as a transaction tool. And, you know, we think about exercising the level of vulnerability, you know, to your point around, where's that the business version of that is like, what stories might need to be told that are yours, that build context and meaning for the communication, but it is not a confessional that's different. does it build context and meaning for people and if it's just you, baring your soul, that's about you.


Alain Hunkins  33:13

Totally, totally. You know, as you say, that reminds me of, I mentioned I was an acting school years ago, right. And I remember we had a guest director and her name is Margaret Booker and we were doing a production of the seagull. checkoff. Same is play the seagull anyway, all which to say is at the at the at one point in the play. This one character, Nina, one of my classmates, her name is Julie was acting in rehearsal on this thing of Nina and she's doing this monologue and she's crying and crying, and she's having she's very connected to what's going on all this stuff. And on the break, the director, Meg's Booker said to Julie, the actress who said, Julie, in this moment, I really appreciate what you're trying to do. But it isn't that Nina needs to cry, it's that the audience needs to cry. Right. And so it's the difference between intention and impact. You know, and I just think about that, as leaders. You know, this is like you said, it's not a confessional. This isn't about you baring your soul and got to think about the, you know, go you want to do that, get a therapist, you know, get a coach, there are places I'm not saying you shouldn't do that work. In fact, if you can do that work, maybe you can bring some of those aspects of yourself to the workplace, but until you do that work, it's not ready for primetime.


Dia Bondi  34:18

Great, okay, let's keep going and having so much fun. Thank you so much. I just feel like leadership can be so much platitudes, you know, the discussion about leave, that's why I'm like, Okay, but how do we, you know, I'm big believer that leaders name mental models and frickin frameworks, like three questions you can ask yourself to, to move forward with something. This is where rubbers gotta meet the road for folks. We talk about things in turn in terms of abstractions all day long. But like then how do we actually get it into how do we operationalize it? So there's a lot of expectation, now also in the workplace, and again, this can be a point of suffering and celebration at the very same time you I like this whole theme of like these polarities that we're living in, but expectations for participation, feedback input from our, from the group from talent, right from the folks from the old talent base, across across the board from new hires, you know, early career all the way on up. And not just how something should be done in an organization, you know, the path to get to a particular, but to get to a particular vision, but in even creating the vision itself, you know, this is, again, in an open source space and other places where it says maybe doesn't reach all the way into like, employee act, you know, activism, but there's, like, you know, that level of participation folks want to have in generating and CO creating everything, again, is intention with speed, but a lot of my founders struggle with the balance of allowing for participation, feedback loops and inputs, and also staying true to the vision that they created in the first place, not to say that they're, you know, white knuckling it even when the business has to change, but recognizing that like, no, there's some things you as a leader, can just you get to actually own it, you know, am I am I doing crazy talk here, but this is, this is a difficult, you know, everyone wants to tell you how to do it, they want you to have answers, but they don't like the answers you give in the combination with you wanting to let people participate, but also hold on to the things that really belong only to you as a leader and a founder. How, again,


Alain Hunkins  36:31

more tension. Totally. And here's the thing, I mean, let's face it, organizations are not democracies, they're not, you know, right. Now, there's a big difference between everyone gets a vote, and everyone has a voice, right? You want to create an opportunity for people to have a voice and give input, but to recognize at the end of the day, they don't necessarily get a vote on the decision. And to be really clear about that upfront, you know,


Dia Bondi  36:59

beautiful said, that's like expectation setting. I know, that's sort of a contrived thing to say,


Alain Hunkins  37:03

but it's so true, right. And so, you know, if people are coming in, I mean, hopefully you have a vision that's so compelling, that attracts people to want to work with you and being really clear on what that is. And this goes back to the expectation thing, because if someone is now veering so far off course, then this is no longer a good fit, we're no longer aligned, right? Doesn't mean they're a bad person, you're a bad person, but this is not working for where we need to go. And if you're trying to hijack what we're doing, that's a massive issue. So again, it comes back to you know, if you're the leader, the willingness to have people not like you and your vision, you know, and are you willing to do you have the skin to hit this is interesting thing, right? We talked about this with actors, and I think it's true for leaders. On the one hand, you have to have thick enough skin, that you can hear feedback and take it. And at the same time, you have to fit enough skin to be sensitive to respond. Right. Again, another polarity, right? In terms of this, you know, this is why leadership is so Gosh, darn hard, right? If this stuff was easy, we'd be better at it. And you know, my stats, and research shows that only about 23% of people think their leaders lead really well. I mean, this stuff is hard, because it's all about embracing paradox and tensions and polarities.


Dia Bondi  38:15

So should we bring our full selves to work?


Alain Hunkins  38:19

Oh, should we bring our full selves to work? I want to say yes, with an asterisk. Can I say that? Right? Because you know, it's going to be a full, like, what version of my full self right? Because, again, people any of this stuff taken out of context is, well, let me my full self, you know, there's an old joke. I think, a comedian, I can't remember which one it was used to tell this thing about, you know, I like cocaine because it intensifies your personality. Right? And someone asks him, Yes, but what if you're an asshole? Right? So, so when I say bring your whole self to work, yes and no, right? So no, we don't need your like, ah, like your we don't need your inside voice internal, like this certain things we don't need the same time. I think the whole self to work, let's let's put this in the historical context. If we think back to again, I'm old enough that you know, I started in the workplace in like the early 90s. I graduated college in 1990. And I kind of know the world and I was around and did stuff in the 80s this whole idea of feelings at work like you check your feelings at the door, like no one cared, no one, you know, shut up to your job. And that was pretty again, this is the last vestiges of the Industrial Age command and control old school style leadership, I call it but we have a different world now. Right? And so that movement of bring your whole self to work came out of the God I can't really share anything, you know, and so yes, we want to bring ourselves to work. But do we have to go kind of off the deep end or that's all it is. Anyway, do you see I'm skirting your question on whether or not we should bring our whole selves to work, I think yes, and yes and no. And yes,


Dia Bondi  39:59

yeah. It's a, it's a sticky question. And my answer right now is no. And not from a leadership respect, not because of the leadership perspective, but because when we bring our whole, I experienced people in the workshops that I do work that I spend time in, I experienced people wanting work to meet their full selves. And it's sort of like, you know, dating someone who just isn't that into you, you know, like, work is not going to meet your whole self where it is. So it's a big ask, in a selfish way, I want to give people permission to not have to bring their full selves to work, so that they can manage their own expectations and get the needs met by the work that can actually meet needs. And there's aspects of work that, you know, is going to be me chasing your tail on that. So I want to let people hold back, I want to be like, go ahead and hold back.


Alain Hunkins  40:55

It's okay. Yeah, no, completely compliant.


Dia Bondi  40:58

I, you know, that could change next week, I could change my mind, you know, but I appreciate, again, that the answer is not black and white, that it is, right. It's this being in that tension. Last question for you, you know, what does that mean for you to leave with who you are?


Alain Hunkins  41:15

I mean, what comes up for me, as I think about that, is, I go back to like, what is my personal mission, right, lead with, you know, with who you are, is like, what's my mission in the world. Now, I've done some work around that. And I've done I did work on this originally, 30 years ago, it kind of woke me up to what I wanted to do and be. And so my mission is, I want to create a more vibrant and alive world by kindling the fire of brilliance. And people I know, that sounds a little waxy and poetic. But it's also, I repeat that to myself, you know, at least a few times a week, and it gets me up out of bed in the morning, it gets my fire going, it gets me going through and returning a bunch of emails to people who haven't emailed me back, you know, not something I want to do. But you know, we've all done it and been there and have to do that. But it's because like, it's this leading with who you are, is really connecting with your mission, right. And the cool thing for me with my mission is, I feel like I get to do that, you know, when I'm coaching and Keynote, speaking and writing and facilitating and doing this conversation with you. But I also get to do it, when I'm hanging out with my friends and being with my family at home or cooking dinner or taking care of a sick kid. You know, just trying to remember that, because I didn't have it, and I can get a little deep here for a moment is, you know, my father passed away a couple years ago. And that's another rite of passage, right? It's like when you suddenly lose a parent, you know, and this, to me, this whole kind of temporal sense of, I mean, we're not here that long, in the grand scheme of things, you know, it's kind of can go by, and I'm looking at that now like going, Holy crap, my oldest like, is 19. And like, where that go, and everyone says that enjoy every minute, because it's gonna go by. So for me, leading who with who I am, is just being mission connected. And as I say that the word that comes to mind is grateful. His Being grateful for the opportunity, whether that opportunity feels good, bad, ugly, whatever today brings, because it's going to be something and it's all an opportunity. It's all an opportunity, you know, it's gonna make me stronger, it's going to make me learn something. I'm going to hate it in the moment. But I guess the older I get, the more I'm starting to get more of that perspective. If you want to call it wisdom, I'll take it. But I still feel like I've got lots of wisdom to learn.


Dia Bondi  43:33

Hey, it has been a joy talking to you. Thank you so much for grappling with all of these tensions. And in this space, where can people find you all can they do with you


Alain Hunkins  43:41

next year? What can you do with me? Well go to my website, that's where you can find pretty much all things which is Li, I will spell that it is a LAINHUNK i n You can download the first chapter of the book for free. There's a bunch of other resources. I offer ongoing leadership challenges that you can read all about it as a web page for that. But yeah, check me out and connect with me on LinkedIn. I'm really active on LinkedIn as well. And if you read Forbes, I write a monthly leadership strategy column for Forbes on


Dia Bondi  44:12

So nice having you today. Thank you so much for being with me.


Alain Hunkins  44:15

Thank you. It's my pleasure.


Dia Bondi  44:19

Lead With Who You Are is a production of Dia Bondi Communications and is scored mixed and produced by Arthur Leon Adams the third. Have a question or an inquiry? Reach out to us at You can like share rate and subscribe at Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your favorite shows. Go to for the show notes to find our tools, frameworks, content and programs to help you and your team speak powerfully and lead with who you are.

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