Book Club – Guts & Grace

Title: Guts & Grace, A Woman’s Guide To Full-Bodied Leadership, How To Lead Consciously, Dissolve Glass Ceilings, and Dismantle the Patriarchy Within

Publishing Year: 2020

About the Author: LeeAnn Mallorie is a leadership coach, who started her career as an executive coach in 2005, working with C-level leaders and teams around the globe. As the founder and CEO of Leading in Motion, LeeAnn has spent the last decade helping leaders combat both meaning-depletion and burnout by bridging the gap between the hard-driving, logical mind and the deeper, more subtle wisdom of the body and intuition. LeeAnn has taught courses on embodied leadership at the Berkeley Hass School of Business, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Strozzi Institute. Her client list includes brand names like NASA, Capital One, Roche, Campbells Soup Company, Mattel, Nordstrom, Salesforce, Logitech, and the US Naval Air Systems Command, along with startups, non-profits and foundations.

Growth Is A Journey summary consists of a series of questions and answers, intended to share 1-2 key nuggets of insight and personal takeaways. The summary is designed to be an invitation to you all to read the book in its entirety as part of your own journeys of personal and professional growth.

Key message of the book: Guts & Grace is a book about growing leadership skills, by understanding and building upon the connection between body and mind. As strange as it might sound when hearing about it for the first time, there is a powerful connection between body and mind. We understand this oftentimes when when we are tensed and our body aches. Once this deep body-mind system is activated via embodied practices, a more authentic, grounded and stronger leader awakens in each one of us.

What to know before reading: The book is structured across four Themes – Embody, Empower, Activate and Inspire. Within each theme, chapters are focused around a leadership myth. Dispelling the myth involves replacing it with a new leadership truth, backed by a piece of research or other books on the myth, as part of a science section. LeeAnn ends each chapter with a practice section with 1-2 recommended embodied practices to integrate and experiment with. There are 12 embodied practices in the book, the core of embodied leadership teaching. Playlist recommendations are a bonus to each chapter.

To make it more concrete, as an example, chapter one is about the leadership myth that when we are leaders and striving to make an impact, it is normal to feel exhausted, body and joy coming the last. This is a lie we tell ourselves especially as new leaders or from time to time when we normalize the feelings of being overwhelmed. The truth however is that if we don’t prioritize feeling good in our bodies and mind, sooner or later we will end up missing on “powerful and compelling leadership”. Replacing the myth by the truth is supported by past research and science. For instance, LeeAnne points to John Ratey’s research findings. As a clinical associate professor at Harvard Medical School, Ratey was puzzled by the rise in physical and mental disease despite the technological and medical advances over the past few decades. Via his work, Ratey found that our sedentary lifestyle choices are a big driver in this trend because these lifestyle choices are violating our original biological design. In other words, we were built to move, and by not doing so, our bodies are not functioning at the optimal level. Therefore, Ratey’s advice is for us to find ways to return to our wilder, more original nature – the medicine needed the most by modern-day human beings. The two embodied practices LeeAnne is recommending in this chapter are anchored in this research: (1) commit to a Joy workout class every week (e.g. dance, pottery, cooking, piano,…) – meaning an activity that brings you JOY; and (2) take a daily happy dance  – which will activate joy, creativity, play, and the inner child in you. Such physical practices will energize you and will improve your capacity to make new moves in other domains as well, at work or in your personal lives.

Other leadership myths in the book pertain to time management (e.g. the myth of being at the mercy of others and deadlines), saying no, having difficult conversations, effective and long-lasting change…

All those myths replaced by leadership truths are foundation to the 4 principles of conscious leadership -Embody, Empower, Activate and Inspire.

Biggest personal learning from the book: My key learning from the book is the idea of using our bodies to strengthen leadership skills. The recommended practices are making this learning very practical as they literally build the capability to awaken to our bodies, to listen within (to our bodies and intuition), and to connect with ourselves and our emotions, all in order to grow in our leadership capacity in a way that is both gracious and authentic. My only regret is to not have read this book much earlier!!! 

One specific learning from the book: A practice that I found powerful and a practical tool to grow to a next level is around two key concepts presented in Guts & Grace. Those concepts are: the Core Dilemma and the North Star.

The Core Dilemma is the one thing – behavior or emotion – that, consciously or unconsciously, stands in our way and sabotages us. It’s the “internal glass ceiling”, the “Achilles heel” , the “survival strategy” that served us once to survive and which likely impacts both our personal and professional lives. Core Dilemma could be beliefs such as “I need to do all to show I am strong” or “It’s better to not speak up to keep peace”.

The North Star is a declaration for a specific outcome, embodying a commitment to a new form of existence or emotion. “I am a commitment to speaking up and being seen” or “I am a commitment to loving and letting go of the need to prove myself”. Having a North Star practice for a specific intention (e.g. a particular physical posture while affirming your new commitment) will be the catalyst for the intention to be embodied. We ultimately become our North Star – the body will take on the natural shape the North Star declaration inspires.

How is this book different from other leadership books: The book is truly a guide taking the reader from one myth to another, from a practice to another …. with the intent for the reader to find and use the inner wisdom of the body. I love the practicality of the book via the 12 embodied practices. Even after an initial read, the book remains a practical and life-long tool for continued growth or when particular leadership myths make their way back into our beliefs and lives.

The author’s special message for the Growth Is A Journey community: “I’m excited to support you through a journey of growth and transformation as you read my new book Guts & Grace. Whether it be at work or at home, taking the lead requires courage and strength… but it also requires knowing when (and how!) to surrender to forces bigger than yourself and trust that they will carry you through. Guts & Grace is designed to help you heal old wounds, release anxieties, build resilience and really step into your whole self as a leader, regardless of your age. I hope you and your community have an amazing journey with Guts & Grace, and always remember to trust your gut!” (LeeAnne Mallorie, March 2020)

Additional resources: For more details on Guts & Grace embodied practices, please check out Guts& Grace and the resource page:

Comments/Feedback: I would love to hear from you with comments, thoughts and testimonials on Guts & Grace and your own journeys of embodied leadership.

Published by Helene R. Johnson

Helene R. Johnson is a pseudonym. Living life as a mom and manager. Articles are also published on, a site dedicated to human resources with a focus on transformational change and development.

8 thoughts on “Book Club – Guts & Grace

  1. Thank you for the summary. I loved the book! One practice I liked in particular is the “lasso your brain” – to catch myself when I lasso into a particular emotion/behavior, stop and replace that behavior with something healthier.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing with us your practical vision LeeAnn Mallorie, and to you Helen for helping me in this beautiful journey, having such valuable guests on this community.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the book summary. It is an interesting book. I applied some of those ideas during my work as a school principal. When you love what you do, you can grow and combine hard work with enjoyment. Listening to our bodies and minds is therefore important. Whatever the field, one needs to find a balance between work and enjoyment and use body, mind, emotions to create this balance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! And the fascinating part is that it’s a live long interplay – as we become more self aware and grow personally and professionally, we move from one North Star to another. So glad you enjoyed reading about the book!


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