68: Leaders With Heart Create A Culture Of Autonomy

In this episode, Heather speaks with Gustavo Tavares of Top Employers Institute Latin America, who recently facilitated a keynote speech which Heather delivered for Harvard Business Review Brasil. He speaks about his leadership style, his refreshing philosophy on empowering his people to chart their own course and his mission to burst the leadership isolation bubble.

Key takeaways:

  • Leaders must show receptivity to change so that their people will emulate what they see.
  • There is no need to isolate the leader from the troops.
  • Make sure to counterbalance autonomy with accountability.
  • When leaders are on the journey, their team is there too -- through peaks and valleys.
  • Trust your own instinct.
  • Treat others how you want to be treated.

This was a delightful episode. Listen and learn!

Gustavo Tavares' Full BIO

Gustavo Tavares is a Top Employers Institute senior executive based out of our São Paulo, Brazil office, where he has the role of Country Manager. He leads a regional hub responsible for managing local and global Top Employers program participants across Latin America, developing new business opportunities, as well as ensuring the production and delivery of insightful, local based contents to be made available through multiple Top Employers Institute electronic platforms.

Since 2016, Gustavo leads the Top Employers Institute business development initiatives for the entire Latin American continent, with preeminent focus in Brazil and Mexico.

Prior to joining Top Employers Institute back in 2016, Gustavo has worked for fifteen years at Hay Group, leading business units both in Brazil and in Mexico (between 2011 and 2015), until the company’s merge with Korn/Ferry. Prior to that, Gustavo worked for four years at the Brazilian subsidiary of The Nielsen Company, a global marketing and research institute.

Gustavo holds an Executive MBA degree from Insper and a Business Administration degree from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (PUC-SP) – Brazil. Gustavo is fluent in Portuguese, English and Spanish.

Open To Change

My leadership journey is a learning process. It doesn’t matter how much experience you’ve had or how many years you have had in the function, because you are always learning. When I look back at the experiences I’ve had in my career, I still think that with the team that I am leading right now, I can still learn and develop some other skills and abilities.

For me, it’s an evolution - to be always open to new possibilities, new perspectives, and to be aware that no matter how well-prepared you are, you’ll still face new challenges with which you have to be ready to accept and adjust yourself to. If I don't allow myself to be open to change, how can I ask my team mates to be open as well?

The way you'd like to be treated is pretty much the same way people on your team would like, too. - Gustavo Tavares #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Burst the Isolation Bubble

Be true to yourself. - Gustavo Tavares #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I remember when I was on my first year of leading a team, one boss said to me, “You know what? A leadership role isolates you, because you won’t be a part of the gang anymore.”

But why is that? Why won’t I be part of the gang anymore?

I had to accept that I wasn’t part of the gang anymore but I also knew that I have to be closer to my teammates, so that they will be able to understand that even though I am a leader, there are no barriers between us.

It is a fact that as a leader, you have responsibilities that you could only discuss with the leadership or executive team but not with your subordinates. But on the other hand, it’s important that you create with them a trust relationship so that they will listen to you. They will know that you are for them and you’ll be there for them.

Leadership always put us on a bubble. But what’s more important is how we always try to break out from it.

This bubble has been so visible in many, many situations. For an instance, I have visited companies where their leaders sit over a corner office and the rest of the teams sit on the other side of the floor or on any other floors. Why is that? Why don’t you guys sit together? Why don’t you guys discuss with each other? Why don’t you guys have lunch together?

This is the biggest misconception: if you are leader, then you should not be part of the team.

You have to be aware that leadership will isolate you. If only people are just really willing to be cautious about it, or try to avoid it, or burst the isolation bubble it created.

You have to think of ways on how you can connect with your people so you can become a better leader. Otherwise you’ll be isolating yourself and this isolation doesn’t create anything else but confusion, lack of communication, and lack of trust.

Consistency is Key

It’s all about consistency.

It’s important for me to be the first one to show that I am really open to change the way I work and approach things. In that way, when I talk to people on why they should be open and flexible, they will know that it’s not just me saying it, but it’s something that they have seen me doing.

As a result, it reinforces my role as a leader by providing them with positive examples of things that I would like them to do. This is where I focus my energy and revolve my leadership style around over the past years.

You have to think of ways on how you can connect with the team and with your people so you can become a better leader. - Gustavo Tavares #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
This is the biggest misconception: if you are leader, then you should not be part of the team. - Gustavo Tavares #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
If I don't allow myself to be open to change, how can I ask my team mates to be open as well? - Gustavo Tavares #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


Connect with Gustavo on LinkedIn

Subscribe, rate and review the podcast on Apple Podcast

Listen to the podcast on Spotify

Leave a Comment


Leadership With Heart With Heather R Younger

“Heather’s courage and vulnerability to share her authentic self are truly inspiring. She shares the most cutting-edge leadership strategies on topics like emotional intelligence and employee experience. If you’re looking to sharpen your leadership skills, this podcast is for you.”

Heather is a Workplace Culture Expert

She's the...

CEO of Employee Fanatix

A leading workplace culture and employee engagement consulting & training firm.

A highly sought-after keynote speaker

Bringing the best insights from over 25,000 employee stories to the stage.

A diversity, equity, & inclusion strategist

An expert in creating safe spaces for these vital conversations.

A contributor to leading news outlets

A trusted expert for stories on culture, workplace engagement, and employee retention.


The Cycle of Active Listening

Create a listening culture that elevates the workplace experience for everyone.

Through this guide, uncover how to ensure those in your care at work feel heard and valued, resulting in increased loyalty and satisfaction.

  • Understand why listening is the key to improved engagement
  • Learn how the Cycle of Active Listening contributes to strong workplace relationships
  • Get a practical framework for creating a listening culture that is bidirectional, responsive, and supportive
Get the Guide
Are you interested in hiring Heather to present at an organization you are associated with?
Are you interested in hiring Heather for consulting services or workshops?

Contact Heather Today!


I'm really interested in...

(select all that apply)*

I can be reached at...

Additional Comments