Episode 55: The Art of Humble Leadership: How to Soften into Your Power And Expand Your Team with Michela O’Connor Abrams

Nov 23, 2020

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We’ve all had those days. You know, those days: the kind that make you want to turn off your phone, pull the covers back over your head, and just disappear for a while. But what do we do instead? We get up, we drink way too much coffee, and then look at ourselves in the mirror and tell ourselves to power up and push through - which is the exact opposite of what your body is signaling you to do. 

If that pressure is so unnatural, then why do we force ourselves to abide by it? 

In this episode, Karlee sits down for a vibrant conversation with Michela O’Connor Abrams, former CEO of Dwell Magazine, and Owner of Moca+ in San Francisco. Her agency puts design thinking at the forefront of media campaigns for an impressive list of global clientele. 

Michela is a sought after keynote speaker who shares her wisdom of leadership to help people better understand how to effectively inspire teams to work as a whole. Michela believes in the power of the collective team. When a leader is grounded, humble in their execution of authority, and asking questions rather than stating demands, the organization thrives. 

In order to achieve all of those things, leaders need to approach their teams as humans. Her leadership philosophy is based on the idea that we’re not put in these human bodies, full of feelings, just to bottle up our emotions and pretend that everything is ok. Bottling it up just gets you behind. 

Today we’re talking about a new form of leadership that’s actually built around humbleness - as in, groundedness. It’s not modesty, and it’s definitely not weakness. It’s an example of leadership that has driven Michela’s success. Knowing what to share and when to share it will actually strengthen the tapestry of your company, and the entire collective fabric of women in leadership. 

If you’re ready to find out how to show strength through vulnerability, effectively process your feelings, and help build the greater collective consciousness of women allies everywhere, then this episode is for you. 

Some Questions I Ask:

  • What are some of the entry-level steps that got you interested in design and leadership? (7:39)
  • How do you know when it’s time to move on? (10:27)
  • How did you first recognize that humility was an important component of who you were? (15:01)
  • What does resilience look like when you're not toughing it out? (31:50)
  • How did you gauge what was appropriate to talk about with your team in moments of vulnerability? (40:51)
  • If you came with a warning label, what would it say? (50:41)
  • What is one thing you know to be true? (52:38)

In This Episode You Will Learn:

  • Why it’s ok not to know everything (9:27)
  • What humility in leadership looks like (13:43)
  • How to know when it’s time to speak up and when it’s time to observe (22:27)
  • How shaking things up can actually result in better outcomes (25:54)
  • The true definition of resilience (32:28)
  • How to partake in the collective conscience (45:28)
  • How to identify what you really want (51:16)

People Mentioned In This Episode: 

Shelley Tatum Kieran

Resources Mentioned In This Episode: 

Episode 48: Rising Together: Hear Revolutionary Career-Driven Women Share Their Wits & Wisdom Inside Our Podcast Pajama Party 

Collective Conscience — The MOCA+ Salon Series

The Thank-You Project: Cultivating Happiness One Letter of Gratitude at a Time by Nancy Davis Kho 

Connect with Michela O'Connor Abrams:



Connect With Karlee: 




Messy and Magnificent is produced by the folks at Ginni Media 

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