Tough Love Leadership

You have been coaching, consulting and leading for years.  How would you explain your leadership style? 

My heart breaks when I see entrepreneurs and others not moving as fast as they could towards success, more profits and their own personal and professional fulfillment. My leadership style is to give loving advice and resources whenever possible, whether asked for it or not, whether paid for that advice or not as well. I call this tough love and I give it freely to those I come across in my day-to-day life and business endeavors. I don’t often hold back unless I sense the person I’m speaking to might not be open to it.

How do you think the world defines tough love and would you define it differently? 

Wikipedia defines tough love as an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run.

One dictionary definition for tough love is something like love or affectionate concern expressed in a stern or unsentimental manner as through discipline especially to promote some kind of responsible behavior.

I define tough love as the act of giving direct, honest feedback with love and concern to someone you care about and whom you want to prosper and/or succeed.

What kind of people best respond to Tough Love Leadership, or does everyone need it to some extent? 

Not everyone responds to Tough Love leadership in a positive manner. Those who appreciate it most and thrive with tough love are those who know they can’t do it all themselves and they understand the importance of not being the smartest person in the room. They know it takes a village, and two minds are better than one.

Can you give me an example of someone that responded well to Tough Love that wasn’t responding to other forms of motivation or accountability?

I have a long-term client who is the founder of a non-profit counseling company. She has taken my advice from day one, even the advice that made her feel uncomfortable such as doing interviews on television. She had always been a go-getter but didn’t know how to get her non-profit into a sustainable, profitable company. She was appreciative of the direct, honest opinions and feedback we had her do to grow her company; from how to manage her website, her marketing, follow up, community outreach, speaking and even video. Within the first year she showed a good profit and is now five years into working with me, always honing and growing into her next accomplishment.

Who are the people that most likely won’t respond to the leadership style?

The people that won’t respond to this style are those who either think they can figure most things out themselves, those who don’t typically ask for help or are resistant to support. Some may struggle with their ego and can’t stand  someone else telling them what to do; they see it as an insult or unwelcome intrusion.

You’ve said things like sometimes people have to breakdown in order to breakthrough.  How true is that and what exactly does that mean?

When it comes to breakthroughs, it’s true, sometimes you have to experience the worst of it all before seeing the best on the other end. Whether your goal is a personal breakthrough or a business one, you may experience feelings of insecurity, shame or imposter syndrome. Awareness of those feelings is the first step to acceptance, then comes transformation.

You yourself have had a lot of mentors in your life many of which you have invested in.  How did those mentors and leaders contribute to your own leadership and mentorship style? 

Most mentors that I’ve had were Tough Love-type mentors in one way or the other. They were all direct with their opinions and advice which sped things up for me, but looking back, they didn’t all mentor with love. However, the thing that held me back from more success sooner was my own stubbornness and ego; I would fight the advice I was given early on.

How does someone know if they need to seek out this style of leadership or mentorship? 

I’m not sure if it’s a style of mentor that people seek out necessarily but it’s something they realize is exactly what they need when they find it. Many who thrive with this type of mentorship have the opposite personality, in fact, they need this direct approach for accountability.  I would also say that another some people should seek out this type of mentor if they don’t want to spend a long time figuring it out or learning things the hard way through trial and error. The right business advice early on can lead to a more profitable and manageable business sooner than later.

What do you think it says about you if you have a hard time taking advice, responsibility or held accountable?

I’ve had a hard time taking advice in this manner before. I thought it meant I was being criticized or doing something wrong until I realized why the advice was being given; it was to see me succeed faster.

 What’s your advice to any leader or mentor that wants to be better at Tough Love Leadership?

It’s all in the delivery. Tough Love has to be given in a way that doesn’t offend or insult the other person. Explaining why you’re giving the advice or feedback, rather than just diving in and blurting it out. This is something I often did before and I had to learn this myself.

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Katrina Sawa

Founder of

Katrina Sawa is the Founder of, the creator of the JumpStart Your Marketing & Sales System, a 9 times International Best-Selling author with 14 books including, Love Yourself Successful, Jumpstart Your New Business Now and the Jumpstart Series that have all been published through her own publishing house Jumpstart Publishing where she also publishes other entrepreneurs as well and is the founder of the International Speaker Network, an educational, networking group with thousands of members.

Katrina has a no-nonsense approach to showing entrepreneurs how to develop consistently profitable businesses implementing proven marketing and business strategies. She’s been featured on the Oprah and Friends XMRadioNetwork, ABC, and the CW. Katrina was awarded the National Collaborator of the Year Award by the Public Speakers Association and a 2-time Nominee for the Wise Woman Award by the National Association of Women Business Owners. When she’s not putting on or speaking at events, she home with her husband Jason and step-daughter Riley in Northern CA.

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