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Hansini Gunasekara, Founder and Lead Consultant at Upthrive Leadership

Hansini Gunasekara (she/her
Founder & Lead Consultant at Upthrive Leadership


Ph.D. (in progress), New Zealand  
M.Sc.
Research Methods in Psychology (2014), UK  
B.Sc. (Honours) in Psychology (2012), USA 

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Growing up, I was fearless and curious, never hesitating to ask questions or share my ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas. Fast forward to my late teens and early 20’s, I remember some core moments where I felt psychologically safe and unsafe in various work settings. One job involved creating a project report for a non-profit in post-conflict zones of Sri Lanka, which required analysing research data and writing a report. As I sifted through the dataset, I noticed a recording error and nervously pointed it out to my manager. She dismissed me and told me to do as asked. I did so. Later, during the report review, a senior associate identified the same error, and my manager simply asked me to redo the report. In the next six months I worked on this project, I was reserved, quiet and kept my ideas to myself. In my young impressionable mind, that one interaction was sufficient to shatter my psychological safety with the manager.
 

Thankfully, my next manager was quite the opposite. She was empathic, vulnerable and a great mentor. She met with me every week to discuss three things - what I did well that week, what could have improved and what I learned. When I made mistakes, she would always ask me about lessons learnt and action plan going forward. In this role, I not only grew as an employee, but also discovered what good leadership looked like. Even though I had not realised at the time, this was the start of my journey in leadership, organisational behaviour, and psychological safety.
 

Following the completion of my bachelor's degree, I moved to the UK to pursue a master’s in research methods in psychology. During this time, not only did I become more proficient in designing and running research studies, statistics, and effective dissemination of complex data, I also worked with several organisations gaining a vast range of experience on how people worked in different settings, particularly from the lens of an immigrant woman of colour, working in a predominantly Western environment. Over the next decade, as a management and leadership consultant, I designed and delivered solutions for various companies, gaining valuable training and coaching experience. Through this work, I saw firsthand the tangible positive impacts of employee and leader development.
 

When organisation put active effort in understanding the needs of their people and addressing them in a structured and meaningful manner, they see results! These results are not just about happier and healthier employees, but also directly influence the organisational bottom line. This is the long and winding road that led to my current research and consulting work. I am now pursuing my Ph.D. in management, researching the role of leaders in fostering psychological safety among diverse employees. When I’m not immersed in research, I work with organisations helping them create effective, people-centric management and leadership strategies. My goal is simple. I want to help organisations and their leaders create research-backed, practical, everyday psychological safety for ALL people.
 

Below are my key areas of expertise. 

  • Workplace psychological safety

  • Leadership and psychological safety

  • Why taking an inclusive approach to psychological safety is important

  • Workplace diversity and inclusion (particularly ethnic, gender and neurodiversity)

  • Meaningful inclusion strategies

  • Successful leadership in the 21st century

  • Self and other awareness at work

  • Leveraging research in industry

  • Cultural competence (CQ) of leaders

Want to know more about Hansini Gunasekara? Connect on LinkedIn

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