top of page
  • Writer's pictureRebecca Contreras

Leading with Purpose and Positivity

From my early years growing up in abject poverty and navigating a troubled youth, to advising a U.S. President and spearheading a thriving consulting firm, my life has been a testament to the power of resilience, mentorship, and transformation.

My path was not straightforward, however. Throughout it I faced trials that tested my spirit, from being abandoned at the age of five by a drug-addicted mother to facing the daunting responsibilities of teenage motherhood without a formal education. Yet, here I am, decades later, having served in significant government roles and now leading AvantGarde, a company I built from the ground up, which now empowers hundreds of professionals and impacts countless organizations.

I’d like to share with you not just the principles I've lived by but also how these principles can be applied in anyone’s leadership journey. Whether you are steering a startup, managing a team in a multinational corporation, or finding your footing in a non-profit, the essence of positive leadership remains the same—how to inspire, empower, and influence others not just to achieve professional success but to enhance their personal lives.

My hope is that these insights will not only help guide you but also inspire you to mold your unique narrative into a leadership style that is impactful, empathetic, and profoundly transformative. In doing so, I invite you to reflect on your own journey, challenges, and victories. Use them as a foundation to build not just a career or a company, but a legacy of positive impact that reverberates through the lives of those you touch.

Insight 1: Cultivating a Positive Leadership Style

Embrace your unique leadership journey and use it to inspire and motivate your team. Leadership starts with us , when we lead us and manage our own space of influence and impact, we will experience tremendous expansion and be trusted with more.

How can this be done? I am a big fan of journaling and taking time to reflect on your personal leadership journey. Write down key milestones and share these stories in your next team meeting to enhance connection and inspiration.  There is so much power in your story and growth around your own leadership journey. 

Insight 2: Empowering Your Team

Just as my two top mentors and former bosses Clay and Donna  did with me early on in my career and through today, identify and nurture potential in your team members. Invest in their growth through mentoring and professional development. Spend time with them “one on one”.  Demonstrate you care and want to help them be successful. 

How is this done? Select at least one team member for a mentorship program this quarter. Provide resources and personal guidance to help them develop skills that align with their career goals. I have found the greatest reward has been to see those I have hand a hand in developing grow and thrive!  When you demonstrate you care by spending time with people, it will reap a reward in loyalty and commitment to you and your mission or cause.

Insight 3: Resilience in Leadership

Overcome challenges with a positive and resilient mindset. My entire life journey has been layered with challenges, adversities and set backs.  My greatest mentor in the White House once shared with me when I brought him a big problem or issue “Rebecca it sounds like this is an opportunity to excel”.  Instead of jumping on the band wagon with me to travail about the issue, he challenged me to look at it through an entirely different lens!

How can this be done? Be transparent with your team and share your own journey of resilience.  Talk about the tactics or methods you used to overcome them.  Share insights with those you lead about what helped you during those difficult times in the workplace. Use examples of those that inspired you to overcome and develop an “attitude” of resilient leadership. I listen to quite a bit of podcasts on this topic to expand my knowledge and wisdom on this topic.  And when I find myself in the mire of an “issue”, I try to step away, pull up, mediate, pray, listen to something positive to get my mindset straight and forward thinking.

Insight 4: Transparency and Authenticity

Lead with transparency and authenticity, key traits that I valued deeply in my rise from challenging beginnings to business success.  I have found people love transparency and authentic leaders, especially in today’s world,  even when we blow it, the grace is there so much more to forgive when we lead this way.

How can this be done? Implement a monthly or quarterly  “Transparent Talks” session where you discuss company challenges and triumphs openly with your team. Allow others to share their stories each time so that you bring in engagement with your team.  Also when you are faced with an issue that might not be ideal, take the path of authenticity with your team.   The bottom line is when something is wrong or gone array, people will know something is not right, so why not lead with authenticity and be open to share the challenge.  At the same time use wisdom in when to share, timing and the audience is key.

Insight 5: Continuous Improvement and Learning

Foster a culture of continuous improvement and learning, recognizing that, as I did, adapting and growing are key to long-term success.

How can this be done? Encourage ongoing education by providing access to online courses and training. Challenge your team to embrace learning as part of their every day lifestyle and journey.  Set aside a budget for team members to attend relevant workshops or seminars annually.  If budget is a challenge and limited, think about granting your team “time off” to take part in a course or training session. I personally believe the best way to grow is to learn and expand your knowledge.

Insight 6: Practicing Empathy

Understand the diverse backgrounds and challenges of your team members.  The fact is people who serve on your team or work for your company are real humans with separate lives, families and issues that come up.  Although we would love to think personal things going on at home do not impact a person’s performance or job life, they do 100%.  When you demonstrate empathy for someone’s crisis or journey, at work, it shows them you truly care about them as a person not just an employee or team member.

How can this be done? Conduct regular one-on-one meetings with each team member to better understand individual team members’ personal and professional needs.  Often times when you hold “all hands” meetings, it doesn’t lend itself to individual sharing on personal challenges that are going on.   By setting up a regular rhythm for “one on ones”, it opens the door for that employee or team member to share with you.  I have done this as a regular strategy my entire career.   What I have learned about the individual needs of my team has helped me grow as a manager and leader.

Insight 7: Humility in Leadership

Demonstrate humility and openness to learning from others, regardless of their level within the organization.  Remove the notion of “hierarchy”.   The old school of leadership was about rank and file.  Today’s work place culture that kind of leadership does not allow an organization to thrive or grow.    Break down barriers and lead with humility and openness.

How can this be done? Create an “Idea Box” where team members can submit suggestions for improving the company, demonstrating that every voice matters. If you have managers working directly for you representing your organization, make sure you are hiring to “fit” in the culture you want to set.    Replicate yourself in managers or team leaders you select.  Then spend time with each manager or team lead to ensure they understand the culture you want to set in the workplace, scaled down. I am very proud of my management team at AG! I have spent a substantial amount of quality time with each senior leader and manager to ensure they understand the leadership culture we have set at AG.

Insight 8: Positive Influence and Community Impact

Use your influence to make a positive impact within and beyond your organization. In my own life, I have leveraged my success to empower others, particularly women, women in business and those less fortunate in my give back.

How can this be done? Launch a community service initiative that aligns with your company’s values and encourages team participation. If you don’t want to launch something new, find a good organization in your community doing good things to serve and empower people!  Get behind them, both in resources and your time.   My greatest reward has been to see Communities transform as a result of my service.   Never underestimate the power of impact to one life, who in turn then impacts other lives, the reward is endless!   My life has been dedicated to serving people. Our signature give back at AG is Girls of Legacy, to learn more click here:

Insight 9: Creating Opportunities for Impact

Identify leadership gaps and opportunities for your team to make impactful contributions. Perhaps serving an existing client, or sharing information and strategies with their colleagues on your team.  We live our lives not only to expand on our career but to impact those around us. This is the true jam in life!

How can this be done? Challenge your team to identify a current gap in your industry and develop a project plan to address it.  When you are dealing with a client issue or problem, pull in a tiger team with colleagues to strategize on solving the problem.  Be solutions driven not problem centric.

Insight 10: Navigating Business Challenges with Positivity

Maintain a positive outlook in the face of business challenges. In life we face issues and challenges most of the time outside of our control. Let’s determine to tackle them and face them through a lens of positivity.

How can this be done? Develop a quarterly review process where you assess challenges and redefine them as opportunities for growth and innovation.  As you encounter set backs, employ a tactic to evaluate and recalibrate. I look at things through a lens of five asks:  1- what happened (stick to facts; eliminate the temptation to exaggerate) 2- why did it happen 3- what was the result or impact 4- what could have been done to prevent it and lastly 5- how would I handle it different next time.

Reflecting on my own journey—from a lost girl facing seemingly insurmountable barriers to a woman who has advised a president and now leads a successful consulting firm—I am reminded of the transformative power of positive leadership. It is my deepest hope that the insights shared here have not only resonated with you but will also inspire you to lead with a renewed sense of purpose and positivity. (To learn more about my journey, I encourage you to read Lost Girl, available here or in many bookstores).

Leading with positivity isn't just about adopting a cheerful disposition; it's about fundamentally transforming how we interact with our teams, our peers, and our communities. It's about building trust through transparency, fostering resilience, encouraging continuous growth, and leading by example. My insights and strategies have helped me navigate both personal and professional challenges; I hope these strategies are more than just lessons—they are testaments to what we can achieve when we lead with our hearts and minds aligned toward a greater good.

Keep in mind that the impact of your leadership is measured not just by the success of your business but by the growth and well-being of those you lead. If my story can serve as a beacon for your own leadership path, then I have truly succeeded in passing on the legacy of positivity that was once bestowed upon me by mentors and champions along my way.

So, as you move forward, consider the legacy you wish to leave. How will you be remembered by your colleagues, your friends, and your family? How will you use your influence to create a lasting impact?

Throughout your endeavors to create a positive ripple in this vast ocean of life, let’s keep making a difference, together.

Connect with AvantGarde! Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook


11 views0 comments


bottom of page