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5 Minute Read

How Powerful Women Define Courage: “It’s Ok To Not Be Ok”

Simmons Leadership Conference
April 13, 2022

More than 6,400 attendees of the 43rd Simmons Leadership Conference explored this year’s theme of Cultivating Courage and Connection. In this post, we’ll hear heartfelt wisdom and advice about what it means to be truly courageous from our world-class lineup of speakers, including Simone Biles, Brené Brown, Molly Fletcher, Amanda Gorman, and Luvvie Ajayi Jones. 

While Cultivating Courage and Connection was the main theme of the conference, several other, equally impactful, topics emerged as the speakers shared highly personal, candid stories that highlighted the importance of curiosity, community, flexibility, intentionality, and vulnerability in leadership.

Our Featured Speakers on Courage


In an inspiring, emotional, and powerful discussion, Brené Brown and Simone Biles shared personal stories about courage, vulnerability, connection, mental and physical strength, and so much more.

Simone revealed that withdrawing from the Olympic Games in 2021 was the most courageous decision she’s ever made and stressed the importance of acknowledging one’s vulnerability. Brené reacted to Biles’s honesty and courage with empathy and visible emotion and emphasized that it’s critical that we attend to our mental and physical well-being.

Walking away from the Olympic Games was a win in itself. I know a lot of people thought I failed because they expected me to go out with five or six medals, but walking out of it was my biggest win…It was probably the most courageous I've ever been.

Simone Biles

World's Most Decorated Gymnast

I found strength and courage in being vulnerable and by opening up.

Simone Biles

World's Most Decorated Gymnast

It’s OK to not to be OK.

Simone Biles

World's Most Decorated Gymnast

Be authentically yourself and unapologetically yourself. That's how you stay true to yourself.

Simone Biles

World's Most Decorated Gymnast

People are not okay right now, in general. We gathered at work here for the first time in two years, and the first thing I said was, no one’s okay and it’s okay…We can be not okay together. You have to normalize the grief and the anxiety that we’re all in.

Brené Brown

Researcher & Bestselling Author

You have to challenge the myth that vulnerability is weakness. There is no courage without vulnerability.

Brené Brown

Researcher & Bestselling Author

Vulnerability is showing up and being seen when we can't control the outcome.

Brené Brown

Researcher & Bestselling Author



In her conversation with Lynn Perry Wooten, President of Simmons University, Amanda Gorman described how she built her muscles of courage from a young age and developed them through poetry.

Whenever I stood up for myself at school I was to return home, tell my mom, and be applauded. Courage starts at home, it starts with the self, it starts young. It’s not something we arrive at randomly in adulthood.

Amanda Gorman

America’s First Youth Poet Laureate

Courage isn't the absence of fear but the recognition that there is something more important than fear. It's how we begin to articulate our dreams. It has a real pulse and significance and movement.

Amanda Gorman

America’s First Youth Poet Laureate

I approach poetry not just as a literary craft, but something that underwrites the change I would like to see in the world.

Amanda Gorman

America’s First Youth Poet Laureate



In an engaging and empowering session, Molly Fletcher shared entertaining personal anecdotes to illustrate how fearlessness and curiosity go hand-in-hand on the journey to success and peak performance.

We can't create courage unless we are curious.

Molly Fletcher

Renowned Speaker & Author

Fearlessness starts with curiosity. Curiosity is the key that unlocks possibility. It asks the question, ‘What’s possible?’

Molly Fletcher

Renowned Speaker & Author

Be bold. We can see obstacles or we can choose to see opportunities. There's no such thing as limits, just barriers that haven't been broken yet. Step in, lean in, and go for it.

Molly Fletcher

Renowned Speaker & Author



Luvvie Ajayi Jones challenged us to have the courage to speak up with intentionality, no matter how difficult the situation.

In the absence of fear there is no courage. If it's easy, it's not brave.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones

New York Times bestselling author, Speaker, and Podcaster

I consider regret one of my biggest worst-case scenarios. I often ask myself: Will my silence convict me? Will my inaction make me proud? When we are afraid, we actually have a chance to choose courage, and it may actually push us over the edge to use our voice and use our power.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones

New York Times bestselling author, Speaker, and Podcaster

Be a disruptor for good. What is happening in the room is absolutely your business. Elevate the space by spending your privilege and power. Challenging an idea will not get you fired.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones

New York Times bestselling author, Speaker, and Podcaster


Next Up:

The next post in our series on the 43rd Simmons Leadership Conference will feature our keynote speakers’ thoughts and insights on connection.