The Brave Leaders Project™

When you want to know what makes a leader brave — ask them.

That’s exactly what we set out to do when we launched The Brave Leaders Project™ in 2015. Since then, we have conducted in-depth interviews with more than 50 brave leaders around the world from business, political and academic fields.

While typical success stories focus on the hearts and minds of leaders, we were more interested in their guts -- how do the bravest among us find the courage to stand up for their beliefs even if it means risking their job, status or their life?

Here’s what we found…

The Four Universal Traits of Brave Leaders™

Perseverance: They accept that they may not see results of their efforts in their lifetime.

Altruism: They put the cause before themselves.

Humility: They thoughtfully consider others’ ideas and perspectives before making a decision.

Composure: They identify and manage their fears.

We invite you to read their stories. Be inspired. Gain insights. Know that even if you are a team of one, you are not alone.

Our mission

Brave leaders have the power to change the world. By sharing their stories, we seek to inspire more people to be a force for what’s good, what’s right and what’s just—especially when doing so isn’t easy.

The team

We are a team of three women representing different stages and walks of life who connected over a shared vision to inspire the kind of change that makes the world a better place. 

Margareta, a global entrepreneur and business executive, founded The Brave Leaders Project and is our lead interviewer. Jeanne is an executive coach and mastermind program facilitator who translates the insights leaders share into practical action steps to help others develop their courage muscles. Jessica, a globe trotter, brings a fresh voice to the project sharing reports and insights she gains working alongside the next generation of brave leaders. Learn more about us…


MARGARETA BARCHAN - Founder & Lead Interviewer

Margareta is an entrepreneur and business advisor who specializes in helping organizations create and implement strategies that support a sustainable future –by striking a balance between social, environmental and financial responsibility. She is a co-founder, past president and CEO of Celemi International, a global learning design company. During her tenure as CEO, Margareta was named Sweden’s Businesswoman of the Year. She also co-founded Pioneers for Change, a global learning network for young professionals. Margareta is a lecturer of leadership and sustainability at several academic institutions in Europe including Business School Lausanne.  She holds an MSc from HEC Paris, is a graduate from the University of Geneva, Harvard Business School’s AMP and Oxford University.

Connect with Margareta.


JEANNE WESTERVELT RICE - Partner & Practice Leader, Coaching for Courage

Jeanne is an expert on leadership communication and executive presence who has helped hundreds of business professionals become more influential. She is certified in reflective writing for business and leadership development. Jeanne has trained with the masters in therapeutic writing and uses these skills to help others develop their insight and intuition. Over the course of her career, Jeanne has held management positions in corporate PR, served as an adjunct professor at Rutgers University, NJ, and was a field producer for CNN in Chicago, IL. She holds a master’s degree in business journalism from Northwestern University.  In 2017, Jeanne was named a Top 25 Brand Builder by Leading Women Entrepreneurs of New Jersey.

Connect with Jeanne

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JESSICA NEWFIELD - Practice Assistant & Content Contributor, Next Generation

Jessica is a community manager, freelance writer, and social impact assessment consultant. She is passionate about supporting communities to self-sufficiency through convening change makers, and designing innovative collective social projects for better resource management.

Jessica has collaborated with over 200 nonprofits and social businesses to better understand the challenges of the current philanthropic space. She started doing fieldwork in rural Quebec and Haiti to design solutions to bridge the digital divide in marginalized areas. A McGill graduate in Political Science and International Development Studies, she also has extensive experience in stakeholder consultation and journalistic writing.

Connect with Jessica.

Our Story: A Q&A With the Women Behind the Project

Why bravery? Why now?  

Margareta: Over the last several years I have been teaching at the university level about sustainability and leadership. I realized that while there was a lot of information regarding using our “heads and hearts” as managers and leaders, there was not much talk about our “guts.” Back in 2015, I began interviewing people who I thought demonstrated real bravery and specifically asked them, “Where did you get the guts to do what you did?” I was so inspired by the stories they shared that I wanted to spread them as widely as possible.  That’s why I launched the project.  

Jeanne: My experience is largely in the corporate world and, increasingly, I hear the term “bravery” popping up during conferences and in keynote speeches. Employees are being asked to step up – to do the right thing, to speak truth to power, to challenge the status quo. But what does that look like in the context of business? Where is the line between being brave and being reckless? The stories we share will ultimately help shape and define the term “brave leadership.”

Jessica: I come from a family of activists, academics, and doctors and so my entire life, I’ve been surrounded by people who have a strong sense of social duty. I’ve therefore always felt this strong responsibility to devote my professional life to meaningful work. I see The Brave Leaders Project as a way to continue to expand and build this community of socially minded and passionate people.

How do you define a brave leader?

Margareta: They have strong values and beliefs to do what’s right. The big differentiator is their desire to serve and be part of a bigger assignment. It’s when you as a leader have enough self-confidence to think of others before yourself.

Jeanne: Most of the leaders we interviewed were surprised that we considered them brave. It’s not a word they would have chosen to describe themselves. This certainly points toward a level of humility, but more importantly, it means that being brave isn’t always big, bold or brash. It is more likely a series of smaller acts of courage that have a big impact over time.  

Jessica: Change makers from all ages and all backgrounds going against the grain and relentlessly pursuing what they believe in despite other people telling them they will fail. Being brave means you believe in yourself and what you stand for and have the patience and drive to pursue it despite everyone else telling you that it’s impossible.

What is your vision for The Brave Leaders Project?  

Margareta: That we will inspire others to take action and do the right thing—no matter if they are in business, politics or academia. The younger generations already demonstrate that they do not accept things the way they are. This gives them a unique opportunity to bring positive change around faster than previous generations. My wish is that they see the value in the life-lessons these brave leaders share and that they learn from those lessons.   

Jeanne: The singular message from the Brave Leaders Project is that you are not alone. Others have been beaten down (or beaten), ostracized, and made to suffer incredible injustices. They’ve made something positive – or made progress – from, in some cases, almost nothing. In the telling of these stories, we share the valuable “how to” providing not just inspiration but a roadmap as well.

Jessica: That we inspire ongoing and real change. I hope that the stories we showcase will help connect our readers to the leaders whom we interview and their projects, and will show them the way forward to initiating or continuing their own personal and professional projects.