Vivian Garcia-Tunon founded VGT People Advisory to partner with transformational leaders and help them build great companies. Her personal journey of moving beyond ancestral trauma, has positioned her fully in supporting heart centered leaders to become more vulnerable and by doing so creating powerful and empowering cultures. Being able to support speakers in sharing their powerful expertise is a privilege, and I caught up with Vivian to talk about how she moved out of toxic leadership environments to create a heart centered and loving space of her own. 

Vivian, you talk about the great resignation in many of your big talks and that the catalyst was not only the pandemic but more that toxic leadership came to a head. What does toxic leadership really mean?

There are so many articles about toxic leadership. We are quick to call it out and name it; however I don’t see that many articles or stories of toxic leadership turnarounds. 
It’s a person that is out of alignment with him/her/themself. It’s someone that is out of balance with some dimension of their mental, emotional, physical or spiritual self. Most likely this imbalance stems from a past experience that hasn’t been addressed. It can be because of a small or large incident that occured where the person couldn’t resolve the issue. 

How prevalent do you think it is today? Why is it problematic?

Let’s be clear, no one is perfect. The last few years have been challenging as they were unprecedented. That was a significant wildcard for all of us. For many the uncertainty of life threw a curve ball that threw people out of alignment. It left people questioning much of the certainty that they had created and left people spinning. 
When issues go unaddressed for too long, it becomes toxic. It’s a repetitive pattern. It affects your interactions with everyone around you. And you are the only one that can do the work to address it. It requires a willingness to see, reflect and learn from your experience to have the courage to flex a different muscle. 

Within most systems, families, organizations, and communities, most people don’t know how to address the unnamed toxicity? Why is that?  

Because they assume the most powerful person in the room can destroy them with whatever move they make. They risk their relationship, community, and status by misstepping and triggering this leader. It’s the attachment we associate with the person and community and the fear of losing it all. Whatever the “it” is: money, relationship or association as we have come to associate our own safety from community. 
In essence, people are walking on eggshells around a person that needs to address an incident that has affected their balance. 

What happens when people stay in an environment working with  “Toxic Leaders”?

Everyone has a different reaction to toxic environments. It really depends on how balanced and supported they are outside of work. 
When I was in a toxic environment, it was incredibly difficult to leave as I wasn’t balanced. Work was my life. I lived for it and it defined me. My inner voice said it’s time to go; however I didn’t have a supportive community around me to help me move forward. It required a lot of inner alignment to finally pull the trigger. 
In essence, the longer you stay, the harder it is to get out as you build more attachment to the challenges on changes vs the excitement and momentum of something new. It’s similar to individuals in abusive relationships. They want to get out and finding a path forward can be hard when you don’t believe something better is out there because you chose this path because you thought it was the best relationship for you. 

You are known as a truth-teller. What’s the hardest message you have had to deliver? 

I met a leader that was destroying everything around him. He was bullying and he was pushing his people away. He was manipulating. He was angry and tested everyone around him. He knew exactly what he was doing and didn’t care. Yes, that one leader was having a domino toxic effect on hundreds of people. 
He was grateful for how confidently and matter-of-factly I delivered the message to him that his company was imploding because of his behaviors with specific examples on the ripple effect it was having.  It was easy for me to point out each and every behavior that was sabotaging him, his happiness, and his fulfillment on top of everyone in his life and company because this wasn’t my day to day reality. I had zero attachment to how it could affect me and was there to help him make a directional change for himself if he wanted it. 
It became clear what he had to do. He had to sit and feel his destruction and his pain for a period of time before he was ready to change. It’s when we are able to see and feel the impact of incidents that we are able to learn how to intentionally do this differently to break his patterns. He took the time to reflect and learn. It was pretty simple for him to explore: What was the repetitive pattern? What was the impact? What did he learn? What would be a different approach to try next time? 
We all are patterns until we break them. It’s about taking the time to reflect that we haven’t made time for in our busy lives. 

How did you trust  that was what he needed? 

Great question! He was testing all the relationships around him which was a reflection of the relationship he had with himself. He needs to rebuild the relationship with himself to address his toxic behavior. It was actually his idea to go that deep. We all generally know what we have to do. He needed a safe space to see, acknowledge his behavior to help catapult his change. 

What’s the difference between feminine and masculine leadership?

I love explaining this one. We all have a distinctive energy at birth. We have are all born with a compassionate, empathic, and loving energy and a strong confident
assertive rational energy. It’s the lane with which you want to conduct yourself personally, professionally and globally. It’s when you only stay in one of those energies that you become categorized as a feminine and masculine leaders. As we step into aligned leadership, leaders can flow between style that becomes truly remarkable. 

How do you build a culture of heart centered leadership? And how do we do that inside of our own companies, communities and families?

It’s pretty simple. It’s about learning to include your heart in your decision making process. Giving it a voice and a space to be considered. The traditional workplace and profession was constructed formulaically based on a financial model. That model didn’t really consider people. It made the assumption that people would deliver results. The Great Resignation has spotlighted that human existence and conditions are even more important than the financial model. A financial model can’t predict results without people. 

Well it starts with getting clear on ourselves as leaders. Who are we? What do we love to do? How can we achieve that? 

We all have to do our own inner work to figure out what we really want vs what others want for us. It's not about the money. The money will always come when you have a great relationship with yourself and the life you want. 
Even this morning on the news, I was watching an interview and the woman said, “My kids will do whatever makes the most money.” 
I understand that’s been our priority for most of our society however that isn’t the recipe for happiness and fulfillment. We have an amazing ability to love and champion others. It’s our inherent gift. When we get that story twisted in our lives, we need someone to realign us. We had to learn to listen to our innate wisdom, our inner voice, to build our legacy. For most of us, we were disconnected to that voice for one reason or another. For many, it’s a moment of realignment to their truth and their passion rather than their chosen path. 
When you are able to love these moments, you are able to live aligned in your story, the story you are creating personally and professionally. When you are able to connect to your heart,  you can speak that openly. That’s where the magic happens.  


Tricia Brouk