Why Leaders Need to be Vulnerable … and Other Lessons from the Inc. 5000 Conference

Last week, 16 LaSallians headed to Palm Springs, California to celebrate 11 consecutive years on Inc. Magazine’s 500/5000 list of Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies in America. Inc editors lined up an impressive roster of speakers from Dr. Brene Brown, to Michael Dubin of Dollar Shave Club, to Sarah Kauss of Swell, to Brian Smith of Ugg and Alan Mulally, the former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, and the list goes on and on. To say we walked away with some great takeaways is an understatement.

The best knowledge is shared, so we put together some of our favorite highlights from these incredible leaders.











Mulally lived by a set of values that he carried with him on one small sheet of paper, and with those, he was able to create transnational change within the Boeing and Ford brands during his time at the helm. Here are his philosophies:

  • People first. You have to genuinely LOVE the people you work with. Mulally was famous for telling his employees, customers and suppliers he loved them.
  • Everyone is included. Everyone is important, and everyone receives the same respectful treatment. We are all working towards one goal.
  • Relentless implementation. The belief that nothing will stop you from achieving your goal. Working together to create value and to create a profitable organization.
  • One plan. There must be clarity around what you are working towards. All employees at every level need to know the plan, its status, and the areas that need special attention.
  • Propose a plan, have a positive, find a way attitude. Mulally wanted people who brought solutions, not problems. He surrounded himself with smart, positive people who excited in challenges.
  • Emotional resilience. There will be roadblocks and challenges along the way. Trust the process, and remember, that as a leader, if you look like it’s over, everyone thinks it’s over.
  • Have fun. Enjoy the journey and each other, it’s that simple.












Dr. Brown exploded on the scene with her TED talk The Power of Vulnerability. She’s produced a ton of research, but also has real-life, practical examples of leadership and courage. Below is some of Dr. Brown’s wisdom she shared with us:

  • Vulnerability is a willingness to show up when you can’t control the outcome. Being a strong leader requires being vulnerable…but that’s really hard for a lot of us. We’ve been conditioned to think vulnerability is weakness, when in reality being vulnerable demonstrates courage. Embrace moments when you’re vulnerable.
  • The #1 way to build trust is to ask for help. Admitting you don’t know everything or have all the answers creates strong relationships grounded in trust. Lack of knowledge does not mean lack of intelligence. Surround yourself with smart people you can learn from, and seek out help.
  • Always have a hypothesis of positive intent. When something goes wrong, don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t immediately assume someone went around you or behind your back, and don’t approach the conversation guns blazing. Assume good intentions from the get go, and it will be a more productive, positive conversation.
  • On a 1 inch by 1 inch piece of paper, write down the names of the people whose opinion of you matters. There will always be critics, especially as you grow and develop as a leader and make more difficult decisions. What’s important to remember is that everyone’s opinion doesn’t carry the same weight. Identify the people in your life who will be honest with you, who support you and challenge you. These people are the opinions you should care about.
  • Start every meeting with gratitude. Do we really need to say more? 🙂


Best Quotes of the conference:

  • To serve is to live – focus on the customer. They give you really fast, real feedback.
  • It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.
  • The purpose of life is to love and be loved.
  • All you have to do is ask – everyone will tell you who is hot and who is not.



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