Competition is fierce. At TEC Canada, we know that this statement is emphatically apparent in one particular walk of life: business. As professional leaders, we’re in constant search of how to create a competitive advantage. Leading in a way that stands out from the rest and offering something others in our industry cannot is no longer just an upper hand, but a necessary part of doing business.

To understand how to find and harness a sustainable competitive advantage, we sat down with David MacLean, speaker and writer on Wholehearted Leadership. MacLean suggests that, in this economy, your greatest competition is not for customers, it’s for employees. Consequently, when it comes to business, he argues that your greatest competitive advantage is your wholehearted leadership; the kind of leadership required to meaningfully engage the hearts of your people. Leaders must be able to do more than simply buys hands and train heads. Great leaders understand how to captivate the hearts of their people to create extraordinary results.

What does this mean, you may wonder? Well, we sat down with MacLean to tell us just that. Let’s dig in.



If the 3 most important rules of real estate are location, location, and location, then the 3 most important rules of running a business are people, people, people. Your priority must be your people, not your customers, because your people take care of your customers. They create the value your business sells.

To engage your people at their heart, leaders must engage with their own. At its essence, wholehearted leadership means to lead with your heart; your deepest place of passion, purpose, commitment, conviction, identity, and life. It is hands down, your most powerful asset.

With that said, your leadership will either be your greatest competitive advantage or your greatest competitive disadvantage.

To explain further, I’m going to share my top 5 secrets to unlocking your greatest competitive advantage. It comes down to your HEART: Humility, Empathy, Authenticity, Risk, and Tenacity. What does it mean to lead with these things? Let’s dig in.



When it comes to being a leader, humility is simply understanding that “it’s not about me” and recognizing that there is more you don’t know than you know. Rather than thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less. Having nothing to do with timidity, we can be massively bold and engaged while still practicing humility.

Humility involves being trainable, teachable, coachable, and taking pride in your work while simultaneously understanding that you are indispensable.

When we practice humility and understand that we need the input of other people to be our best, we maximize the potential of the people in our life and put our best foot forward as a leader.



If we do not engage in empathy, we cannot meaningfully connect and engage in a way that we need to as human beings. Especially as leaders.

Empathy, to me, is seeing through the eyes of others, hearing through the ears of others, and feeling through the heart of others. It’s about seeing the upside of the other side and the downside of your side.

To make this more tangible in the workplace, here’s an example: call a meeting and speak last. Upon commencement, state the objective of the meeting and then allow your colleagues to share their opinions, feelings and solutions before sharing your own. This allows you to understand the problem through their eyes, ears and hearts without your point of view influencing opinions.

The best part? One cannot be empathic without practicing humility. They go hand in hand in crafting your competitive edge!



As a leader, it is critical to create an authentic organization that people admire and want to be a part of. Like empathy, we cannot connect with others at a deep level if we are not willing to be authentic, or, in other words, be genuine, open, honest and you.

How do we practice authenticity, you may wonder? There are 3 areas to focus on:

1. Be Genuine

Take off the mask, stop posing and be the genuine you.

2.  Lead and live with integrity

Holding yourself to a consistent quality of character, even when no one is watching.

3.  Have the Conversation

Talk about what needs to be talked about.  Be committed to being “carefrontational”. Have the courage to have constructive confrontations.



To engage in wholehearted leadership and unlock what has the potential to be your biggest competitive advantage, you must be willing to take risks. This can be categorized into three groups:


1. Courage

A risk at its essence, John Wayne defines courage as “being scared spitless but saddling up anyway”. If you’re not afraid, you haven’t stepped outside your comfort zone, and if you haven’t stepped out of your comfort zone, you’ll never realize your potential as a leader. Leading and living with heart can be terrifying, but it becomes easier to push through that fear.

My advice? Live life in the zone of being “exhilified”—the state of feeling both exhilarated and terrified. Often times, living in this zone involves pivoting, innovating, having difficult conversations and trusting other leaders.

Courage is like a muscle, the more you use it the more courageous you become.


2. Vulnerability

A willingness to be seen, vulnerability is a courageous commitment to understand and be comfortable with who you are and who you are not. It’s a readiness to admit fears, failings and foibles and is the gateway true connection.

According to Brene Brown, vulnerability is “The birthplace of innovation, creativity and change,” each of which are indispensable facets of leadership.


3. Failure

Really? Failure is key to creating your competitive advantage? Absolutely. Failure is a prerequisite to success.

Our interpretation of failure is way off. Put simply, it’s a willingness to reach beyond our grasp and not succeed. It’s about accepting that you didn’t make it, and still embracing a readiness to keep moving forward.



The sum of passion plus perseverance, tenacity is the determination to move forward in the face of opposition. This willingness to passionately pursue a worthy goal, also known as “grit”, is a pre-requisite to success in life and a fundamental quality of wholehearted leadership.


There you have it, folks; my tried-and-true ways for creating your competitive advantage, AKA your leadership. I encourage you to do the homework. Ask yourself these questions and create extraordinary results:

  1. How can I demonstrate more humility in my leadership?
  2. In what areas can I be more empathic in my leadership?
  3. What is an acceptable failure for me and my organization?
  4. What does vulnerability look like for me? How can I demonstrate this in my leadership?
  5. How can I lead with authenticity?
  6. Where can I stand to take more risk?
  7. How can I be more tenacious in my leadership?

Practice wholehearted leadership for the benefit of your people and to engage them at the “heart” level. This is the privilege and pleasure of leadership, and it creates extraordinary results.

I commend you for choosing to lead – it’s costly and it takes courage. So keep moving forward because you are making a difference.

-David MacLean


Thank you, David, for sharing your expertise on wholehearted leadership. We are thrilled to have you as a TEC Chair and continue to champion the positive impact you make on leaders all across in Canada.

Want to hear more from David MacLean? Watch his full leadership webinar here!

Want more deep insights like this? Access to the minds of some of the most successful business leaders in Canada? Consider becoming a TEC Member and reap the benefits of our proven process of peer groups, Chairs, thought leaders, and a global network to strengthen you and your business.