Thought Leadership

‘Be kind and be human’

High-Stakes Leadership Mentor Sally Henderson unveils the energy and outlook leaders will need to navigate the permacrisis.

Sally Henderson

High-Stakes Leadership Mentor Sally Henderson


A staggering 53% of women report their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago. According to a recent survey by Deloitte, Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook, 46% of respondents are suffering widespread burnout. Meanwhile, the ‘Great Resignation’ appears set to continue with 40% of women actively looking for a new employer. And it’s not only women who are impacted. My male clients; successful, high-performance senior leaders,  are also reporting fatigue and burn out.

None of us has the benefit of a crystal ball and can predict how this year will play out. What’s clear, though, is that world and economic events will continue to influence and impact upon us all in 2023. 

This may sound like a gloomy outlook, but the good news is we are not passengers on this permacrisis ride.  Because, although much lies beyond our control, what we can control is how we equip ourselves for the year ahead. With that in mind I share the following insights. 

I have heard from so many of my clients that this year already feels ‘different’, that people don’t seem to have the same energy and even report feeling ‘depleted’ before the year has got going.

Sally Henderson, High Stakes Leadership Mentor

Bravery and thoughtfulness: leading with clarity in uncertain times

To understand what 3 leadership traits are considered the most important to truly lead and excel in 2023 I recently polled over 200 senior leaders across ad-tech, marketing, brand, advertising and digital. The results speak for themselves. Bravery and resilience feature prominently - both strong leadership qualities that we’ve all learned in bucketloads from the rollercoaster of the last couple of years – but also how refreshing that empathy and thoughtfulness, consistency and clarity are also up there. Any surprises there - or omissions?

In over twenty five years as a High-Stakes Leadership Mentor, I have learned to quickly spot the difference between those leaders who will flourish and those who set themselves up for failure – and there are three key factors that determine that: environment, energy and emotion. 

The 3 Es to Excel in 2023_Final.png

1. Environment 

Everything you do – and I mean everything - is dictated by the lens you choose to see your world through. Everyone is a subjective being, no matter how great a leader you are. Two people can have the exact same experience yet respond completely differently as we are all influenced by our upbringing, life events, leaders we have worked for and so forth. 

When I am working with C-Suite leaders, one thing they have in common is a positive outlook, a clear lens that enables them to create a good and stable environment, both for themselves and for the people under their care.

The good news is that there are 5 simple steps to support your lens and help shape your environment to be a positive one for the year ahead:

Write down 5 adjectives to describe how you visualise your 2023 

  1. Now percentage weight each of these words out of 100%
  2. Looking at the percentages, what does this show you about the lens you are seeing your world through? Are you happy with this or do you want to change it?
  3. List the 3 practical steps you can take to ensure your lens and environment are healthy and are the ones you want. 
  4. Finally, identify and recruit the people who will help you keep accountable, support you and celebrate your success.

2. Energy

It takes huge energy reserves to manage our emotional state, keep our environment healthy and to stay motivated.

I have heard from so many of my clients that this year already feels ‘different’, that people don’t seem to have the same energy and even report feeling ‘depleted’ before the year has got going. This is normal. After all, we’re not programmed to live through such extended times of stress, change and uncertainty.

I have some practical steps for you to help you access the right energy to fuel your motivation and equip you to thrive:

Connect with your tribe. We are by nature herd animals, so identify the key people in your tribe that boost, inspire, support, care and who will challenge you in a positive way. 

Indulge in joy. Finding happiness in times of great stress can feel like a guilty pleasure but how do you expect to keep your fuel tank topped up if you are not experiencing the things, people, places and experiences that give you pure unadulterated joy?

Be realistic. Set achievable goals that inspire you rather than daunting, insurmountable ones

Pace yourself. 2023 is going to be a marathon and not a sprint. Know when you need to be in ‘hare mode’ but also know when a slower pace will equip you to complete and win the race. It’s better to edge forward consistently than to sap all your energy and stall.

Invest in you. Working with a leadership mentor will keep you accountable as you continue the journey to becoming a happier, more effective leader. 

3. Emotion

Emotion is such a powerful thing. It can be a dangerously destructive beast or the best ally you could ever wish for. Sadly, too many of us allow our emotions to control rather than to work for us.

My leadership mentoring tool, The 5 Word Reveal, will enable you to gain fast emotional insight and create a practical plan to positively influence how you think, feel and act.

My advice here is:

Express your emotions. What you suppress is what holds you back

Acknowledge failure when it happens. Without failure you cannot keep pushing boundaries 

Be honest to yourself and to those supporting you. The naked truth will always conquer

But above all, be kind and be human. After all, as a leader, isn’t that what you’d want to be remembered for?

Guest Author

Sally Henderson

High-Stakes Leadership Mentor Sally Henderson


Sally Henderson is a High-Stakes Leadership Mentor. For over 20 years she has worked with ambitious senior teams and leaders in the world’s biggest brands and award-winning creative agencies, equipping them with the professional and emotional toolkit needed to excel; especially when the stakes are high. Instinctively people know Sally cares about them, and her caring is genuine. Working at the heart of the creative industry, she is here as your experienced, trusted counsel – supportive, challenging and candid. Her structured leadership programme, The Real Method, combined with powerful bespoke mentoring, makes the best better to achieve meaningful leadership impact and legacy. Clients include Accenture Song, Coca-Cola, Dennis, Forbes, M&C Saatchi, NatWest Group, Nestlé, Next 15, Rapp, VMLY&R

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