Throughout my time at Edelman, I’ve collaborated with exceptional leaders across different teams and practice areas. Exposure to such a diverse range of leadership styles has broadened my perspective on what leadership can be. It inspires me to reflect on how I model leadership today and how I want to evolve as a leader for the future.

I’ve also connected with incredible mentors and peers through Edelman’s Boundless employee network. This experience has allowed me to compare notes on how our unique backgrounds influence our leadership styles and approaches, further enriching my understanding and practice of effective leadership.

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANPHI) Heritage Month in the United States with this year’s national theme, “Advancing Leaders Through Innovation.” As we close the month, I gathered insights from members of Boundless on what leadership means — what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like. What I’ve learned is that we draw deeply from the rich traditions of our Asian cultures and histories, which inform the leadership qualities and skills needed to thrive in today’s workplace. These traditions not only shape our understanding of leadership but also empower us to create inclusive and innovative work environments where everyone is positioned to succeed.

Three themes emerged from our discussions:

Create and defend a culture of safety

We often hear about the importance of creating psychological safety, but what does that mean in practice? Psychological safety is more than inviting contributions or questions from others; it’s about ensuring that everyone feels valued and safe to voice our opinions and disagree openly without fear of negative repercussions. It also means being open to feedback or ideas that differ from our own and responding in ways that reinforce trust and inclusion. Many of us grew up with figures, sometimes within multigenerational homes, with elders who model psychological safety. They taught us that earning a sense of safety is a result of our actions, not just our words.

The best leaders create and defend a culture of safety for those they lead—this can take shape through 1) a deep understanding of how different people on their teams prefer to communicate points of view and 2) a consistent commitment to promoting different viewpoints more broadly.Vidya Ranganathan, VP, Strategy Director, Health

Leaders need to be able to receive feedback — good and bad — and learn from it, because even you as a leader can make mistakes. Also remember that no one is perfect, so the people that you lead may make mistakes as well.Vanessa Dunn, Executive Assistant

Model authenticity with courage and conviction

Showing up in a way that is true to who you are helps make others around you feel that they can show up authentically, too. As leaders often set precedents for their teams, it’s important to model the desired behaviors and qualities you want to bring out in others. Across Asian cultures, our values often inform the different way we show up as leaders. Some of us model collectivism and teamwork with a focus on shaping community and celebrating collective success, while some of us place a higher value on perseverance to encourage long-term thinking and patience when navigating challenges. Humility and modesty, another core value of many Asian cultures, can create more inclusive environments that encourage adaptability and a culture of learning.

No matter what type of leader you are, there’s one thing that all good leaders have in common: they lead by example. Doing so epitomizes compassion, an essential ingredient for a strong leader. Kayla Aragones, Account Supervisor, Technology

Paving the path for others with courage and authenticity. This can look like taking the time to mentor, upskill, and train others, giving others the permission to be themselves by leading by example, and not asking/expecting your team to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. Kristine deGuzman, Managing Director, Global Head, Revere & U.S. Chair for Boundless

To me, leadership embodies the essence of originality and conviction. It's about standing apart from the herd, not merely for the sake of being different, but because of a deep-seated belief or vision that compels them to speak up. A leader is a beacon of authenticity, inspiring others through the clarity and strength of their own convictions.Clare Kleinedler, SVP, Content Strategy, Assembly

I think leadership means someone who can positively influence a person or group to make them want to become the best version of themselves. — Lizzie Balacanta, Assistant Account Executive, Integrated Brand

Treat others the way they want to be treated. 

The platinum rule challenges the golden rule — treat others the way you want to be treated. It requires getting to know others to understand how they want to be recognized, heard, and valued, not just how you might want to be treated if you were in their shoes. The platinum rule — a core principle of inclusive leadership — understands that addressing the needs and preferences of each group member ensures that the entire community feels valued and respected. Similarly, Asian cultures encourage us to be considerate of others’ dignity and needs to assess community well-being. This tenet teaches us that achieving collective harmony is a journey that requires the practice and build of social and self-awareness skills.

Every leader has their unique style, but at its core, leadership involves empowering others. To be an effective leader, you must be thoughtful and try to understand those you lead—their passions, struggles, and milestones. This includes acknowledging your own shortcomings and holding yourself and others accountable. A great leader combines heart and mind, evolving alongside their team. — Megan (Meg) Villaverde, Manager, U.S. Business Development

Leadership looks like being able to recognize the unique perspective or potential that each person in the room brings and investing in that during moments in time and in sustained ways. In practice, this can look like making space for people to contribute during a call or through establishing a long-term relationship. — Judy Alterado, Account Supervisor, Corporate Reputation

A true leader fosters growth, understanding that patience is essential in nurturing development. They see beyond mere roles or temporary statuses, recognizing each individual as a unique human being worthy of respect and consideration. Christine Kim, Account Executive, Assembly

By embracing these themes, we can create a more inclusive, innovative, and effective work environment where everyone feels empowered to contribute their best. Our cultural heritage provides a powerful foundation for developing the leadership qualities and skills needed to thrive in today’s multigeneration and multicultural workplace. As we close AANHPI Heritage Month, let’s allow and appreciate the multiple styles of leadership we bring and our cultural learnings shape how we lead into the future.