Updated: Nov 20
Ian Goh is the founder of authenticLEADERS, Asia-Pacific's first workshop course dedicated to nurturing and developing LGBTQ+ leaders in the workplace.
From my first conversation with Ian Goh, I knew we had to work together. His vision for a corporate world where LGBTQ+ professionals could bring their authentic selves to work and lead with honesty, humanity and love resonated with me deeply.
The authenticLEADERS website outlines its goals for LGBTQ+ professionals in 3 words:
Safe to come out as their authentic selves
Inspired to contribute to their life’s work
Fulfilled by the impact they create and the relationships they form
"We teach human skills and faciliate transformation to help LGBTIQ+ people bring their full selves to work and beyond," Ian says.
I'm proud that Perk Copywriting helps Ian strategize, craft and deliver his message of love and authenticity to queer leaders and Fortune 500 companies around the world.
If you're interested in more information about the authenticLEADERS Program, including workshops and 1-on-1 coaching, click here.
Support for LGBTQ+ Professionals in Asia-Pacific
My work with authenticLEADERS has broadened my understanding of what it means to be a queer professional. It's so easy to think of "work" as your office, your region and your industry.
It's another thing entirely to see "work" in a different part of the world.
I live and work in the shadow of New York City. While navigating life as a gay man isn't always perfect, I must acknowledge the privilege my location affords me. My work with Ian has opened my eyes to the LGBTQ+ professional (and personal) experience in countries like Singapore and Cambodia.
Example: As of this article (October 2023), there is no dedicated LGBTQ+ community center in Phnom Penh — Cambodia's capital and home to 2.3 million people. That's something Ian strives to change.
As a New Jersey resident, it's almost impossible to fathom.
With that in mind, the need for specific LGBTQ+ support systems in these areas is crucial. Diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are taking hold in Australia, Singapore and much of the Asia-Pacific region.
But there is still work to be done. And I applaud Ian and authenticLEADERS for taking that work by the reins.
I spent time with Ian Goh recently after a content marketing jam session and asked him some of my biggest questions — how he started, the needs of Asia-Pacific's LGBTQ+ community in the workplace, and his own marketing goals.
My Interview with Ian Goh of authenticLEADERS
Perk Copywriting: What compelled you to start authenticLEADERS?
Ian Goh: I felt there was such a gap in companies we got to interface with. There’s been this growth based upon DEI around the world, and things are really so much better now.
But there wasn’t an offering that directly supported LGBTQ+ talent. There weren’t many opportunities for them to step up and lead employee resource groups, small projects and initiatives for policy and systemic change.
We really got inspiration from women’s leadership initiatives. We asked, “Why isn’t there one for queer leaders?”
It came out of the love of our hearts, and honestly pure playfulness. What if we created a program that specifically supported LGBTQ+ individuals who are in their leadership journeys? [People] who want to be even more “themselves”, and to help them lead with pride? That was our main intention.
Perk Copywriting: authenticLEADERS is the first ever LGBTQ+ leadership development initiative of its kind (in a workshop oriented space) in the Asia-Pacific region. Does that ever feel overwhelming to you?
Ian Goh: Extremely. I would offer something — I want to celebrate a lady by the name of Charlotte leading LGBTQ+ leadership keynotes and presentations in Shanghai. From what I’ve heard, her engagement is more to the masses, her energy is infectious and she can inspire people to do great things.
My work is a bit more tailored, customized and bespoke. We sit with people for much longer times — our programs take 5-6 months. We aren’t the only ones doing the work, but we’re the only ones doing the work in our space.
But yes, it’s overwhelming for a couple of reasons. There’s so much opportunity, and I’m grateful for such an open opportunity. Almost every single company that we get to engage with and inspire in Asia-Pacific has not put in place clear, development programs dedicated to support their queer talent.
So it feels overwhelming for that sheer potential. It’s almost like open ocean.
I also think there’s this [component] about vulnerability. Being a leader and “going first” in this space feels extremely vulnerable. It feels uncharted, like there is no path. But then again, is there a path for anyone?
I get a sense that what I say and do matters — it’s a change, it feels like a lot. It’s a responsibility of care, a responsibility of love. It’s helping to create the next generation of LGBTQ+ leaders within and beyond companies.
Perk Copywriting: Only 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are openly LGBTQ+. How do you assess this fact? What contributes to it?
Ian Goh: I feel a sense of sadness, because I know so many LGBTQ+ people who are brilliant. We are in the in-between space of being able to access both “traditionally masculine” and “traditionally feminine” qualities, if we give ourselves permission.
While we are making progress in upgrading and evolving organizational systems to be more facilitative for LGBTQ+ people to thrive, I feel sad because I think a lot of us (consciously or not) are not giving ourselves the permission to thrive fully as ourselves.
To come out and be seen, to make our contribution and our mark upon the world. We secretly hide behind our function and our roles, and we don’t really show people our personality and who we are.
Perk Copywriting: What do you think is one major misconception most DEI professionals have about LGBTQ+ leadership and diversity initiatives?
Ian Goh: My sense is that I don’t think it’s about them understanding something new — but really deepening their understanding.
The entire DEI movement has been centralized around a certain premise — how do we create spaces that are more inclusive that foster belonging for everyone? I think the approach has always been right, to create a greater sense of equality when people show up at work.
But the journey that many LGBTQ+ people take is a bit different. I cannot speak for other traditionally marginalized minorities, but I know growing up queer and gay and different — a lot of us experience some form of homophobia in the world. It’s thrust upon us by some societal factors, religious or cultural beliefs or the state that you live in.
I don’t think the world is perfect right now. We’ve fallen so far away from love and acceptance and friendship. Part of our journey is we’ve internalized that, we turn it into shame and this sense of not being enough.
What would elevate DEI practice for LGBTQ+ people is to be able to facilitate that healing and transformation internally. Helping our people let go of what was in the past so they can embrace who they are, and lead more powerfully into the future.
Perk Copywriting: What do you think is one major misconception most LGBTQ+ professionals have about themselves and their role in the workplace?
Ian Goh: The biggest thing we struggle with is fitting in. I think we all confuse belonging with fitting in. A lot of our journeys have not been gifted with an abundance of acceptance, love and recognition.
A lot of the people we get to touch and love and inspire, they struggle with feeling like they belong. Feeling like we have to “fit in”, we try to edit and filter out the most unique things about ourselves. It’s not just our queerness, it’s not just the people we love, it’s so much more than that.
The gift we give when we embrace our full selves, we really help companies change, innovate and transform. Because we were always on the outside, we are the ones to create belonging.
As we go about fitting out, instead of fitting in, we are confident in how we show up, what we say, what we contribute, what we do, and how we impact and love people. For me, leadership has always been love. I know for a fact that a lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community have such a reservoir of love.
[We need] the confidence to cultivate that love inside of ourselves and to keep showing that.
Perk Copywriting: So much of marketing is closing a sale or converting a lead. In a very unique way, that’s not at all what you and I do. But you need to find a way to create exposure without being “salesy”. How does copywriting and marketing fit into your work process?
Ian Goh: I think marketing is very different when you’re marketing a service. For us as a service-oriented business, how I want to do things is with people. It really is a business based on relationships, where we want to connect and work with people who are inspired to join us on this journey. To see a world where we have even more LGBTQ+ people leading innovation within organizations and for their brilliant clients.
For us, marketing has been very gentle. And it’s always been with the intention of, “How do I share some of the insights we already have? How do I inspire a better world with my words?”
And so far, the right people have been coming. People show up and partner with us because they see so much opportunity. And it’s led to a very nourishing friendship between us and the corporate partners we work with.
They’re huge companies, and that can feel very daunting — how do you engage with such a conglomerate? What has worked for me is finding the people who care, being friends, working together and doing something awesome.
And after that, delighting them. And loving every single moment, so that even when we do share marketing, it’s messages of love. Love is everything. It’s helping to heal and inspire our world one message and one phrase at a time.
Content Marketing With Love In Mind
I hope you took something from my conversation with Ian Goh of authenticLEADERS. Ian is one of my cherished clients — a person I learn more from than I could ever teach him about copywriting and content marketing strategy.
Ian's right when he says truly successful marketing is about finding people who care and inspiring a better world with our words. Strategy and conversions are important, but they must be backed with a genuine desire to improve the lives of our customers and clients.
I'd love to improve your life as well. Reach out anytime and let's set up a free conversation about your marketing needs and goals.