Our Impact

Natalia Urtubey discusses the importance of authenticity, empathy, and courage in leadership | 2019 Boston's Future Leader Cohort

Posted by Denise McIsaac on December 11, 2019

At the Chamber's December 2019 Board Meeting, Natalia Urtubey, Director of Small Business for the City of Boston's Office of Economic Development, was asked to speak on behalf of her 2019 Boston's Future Leaders Cohort on what the program meant to her, as well as her vision for Boston. Her remarks are included below.

"Imagine my surprise when Alyson Weiss, Senior Leadership Initiatives Manager at the Boston Chamber, called me last week to inform me that YOU had voted to have ME...a public employee in a program mostly designed for rising corporate leaders, and one that I weaseled my way into just a month after starting in this role, to offer remarks on behalf of our cohort.  It’s important to me that you know how honored I truly am to have this opportunity.

I hope my remarks give you even a little bit of insight into how transformational this program has been for me, and especially on my definition of leadership. 

First, the Boston's Future Leaders program made sure that we understood that while our leadership journey is likely similar to riding the T — there are delays, derailments, missed connections, and doors closing right in your face, but every now and then, we have a perfectly smooth and efficient ride. I was going to use a road analogy but since the Spotlight pieces came out, I thought it was best to change directions. Pun intended.

Next, I think I speak for the cohort when I say that this program has taught, engaged, and challenged us to open ourselves to being truly authentic leaders. 


Authenticity creates space for our humanity, for us to be relational, and for us to be better at our jobs. It shows that leadership is open to mistakes and failures, and that our success comes from learning every day.

Finally, over the last twelve months, I have also sharpened my communication skills. I better understand that difficult conversations are opportunities to build commitment and accountability for our relationships. Most importantly, I now genuinely understand that everyone is doing the best they can to be effective leaders, we need to re-frame OUR reality so we are truly empathetic.

I thoroughly enjoyed the caliber of experts BFL presented to us, from Carol Fulp, a dynamic woman changing the color of Boston’s leadership, to Alison Nolan who took charge of a family business and turned it into an institution, our courageous City Council President Andrea CampbellLinda Dorcena Forry at Suffolk Construction who taught us the importance of taking risks, to my boss, Chief John Barros at The Barr Foundation who is helping to direct Boston’s economy, and of course Jim Rooney’s leadership in yet another one of Boston’s pillar institutions. These visionaries have transformed Boston and to learn from them is motivational, to say the least.

The most valuable experience of this program for me, however, was our three days at Harvard Business School. The Socratic Method at HBS challenged us to fully explore all sides of an issue — including the testing of our own assumptions and instincts. This helped us more fully engage with one another and is where, I believe, we tested and solidified our own definitions of leadership. I thought we were all made better, simply by the opportunity to listen – and by listening, to achieve deeper understanding. This method is one we can and should practice throughout the rest of our lives, I know I will.

I know that my cohort and I, with our shared experiences and diverse perspectives, will undoubtedly continue to shape this great city and region, solving for our society’s most  entrenched and most wicked problems. But as everyone in this room knows, this is not easy and there is no silver bullet to addressing these challenges, and so I will end here, with a thank you, to all of you for showing and bringing your full selves to all that you do. The simple act of choosing to learn and play a role in impacting our communities for the better, whether it’s through improved hiring practices or joining a Board, is leadership.  Our future is here, and as leaders, we have the responsibility to show up and practice courage every day.

I say with deep humility and gratitude, thank you."


About Natalia Urtubey

As Director of Small Business for the City of Boston's Office of Economic Development, Natalia’s extensive knowledge of Boston’s neighborhoods and the small business community compliment her experience in creating growth strategies and building partnerships across community stakeholders. Natalia leads a 14-person team focused on tracking and producing research on local and national trends to inform decision making about small business development tools, coordinates with local residents and existing businesses to ensure that there is a strategic and policy-driven approach to growth without displacement, and works with residents and other City officials to remove any barriers to do business in the City of Boston. Natalia manages and oversees the distribution of the more than $3 million in small business resources under the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program and the more than $3 million in investment in small business within and outside of the 20 Boston Main Streets Districts. She directs and implements Mayor Walsh’s 2016 Small Business Plan to provide coordinated service delivery and economic opportunity for Boston’s 40,000 small businesses. Previously, Natalia served as the Executive Director of Imagine Boston 2030, working to implement the first citywide plan. She was responsible for ensuring the first planning process in more than 50 years was representative of Boston residents’ vision and concerns. In this role, Natalia was instrumental in keeping the process visible and accessible to all Bostonians. She brought community leaders together and identified opportunities for collaboration. Natalia received her Master in Public Administration from Suffolk University in 2012. Natalia is a proud homeowner in Dorchester and serves on the board for several local nonprofits, including the Dorchester YMCA, Future Chefs, and Hyde Square Task Force.