Leaders walk a fine line. They have to lead from the front, but still be ‘one of us’. They must drive innovation and change, whilst ensuring people are willing to go with them. Leaders need to be dynamic, inspiring and exciting, and they need to be all of those things whilst still being someone that we can all identify with.

The balance is sometimes hard to achieve. As a brilliant leader, you need to know how to show passion, but also to show yourself. People “buy” people, and if they can’t relate to you, they won’t trust you.

Leaders are often judged on their ability to speak effectively. Public speaking is a skill you learn and develop: you can work on how you communicate your ideas, transferring them into the minds of your listeners. A leader can only inspire change if they have the communication tools to light the spark, and part of that is being believable.

Authenticity is absolutely critical in a leader. You must come across as genuine, empathetic and truly believing in what you’re promoting.

One of my new clients, John, asked me to go and watch him in action before our training session. He was speaking at a couple of different events and invited me along to get an understanding of the range of public speaking engagements he is expected to present at as part of his job.

In essence, these events were fairly similar set ups: large groups of people who were there to decide if they were going to make an emotional and financial investment in the product John was trying to sell. The presentations were identical, and very good. John was confident, well-rehearsed and entertaining, with a great product to back up his pitch.

But I didn’t buy it. And if I didn’t buy it, then I wouldn’t be the only one.

John and I spent a day reworking his approach. He had a good foundation, but by making a few changes we were able to make a big difference to the impact he was able to make. We worked on his content – on how to make it more relevant to his audience, and how to focus on his key message. He learnt how to hook his audience from his opening line, and how to leave them wanting more with his final call to action.

We worked on his delivery: we took off some of that scripted “polish” and helped him make it real. We spent time on how to prepare in the moments before he took to the stage, so that he would feel relaxed and not thrown by his nerves. This had a knock on effect on his body language and enabled him to behave “normally” on stage, rather than fixating on what he should be doing with his hands, or how he should stand.

A week later, I was invited to watch John present again.

Beforehand, he seemed a little nervous. He was out of his comfort zone: he had polished his previous presentation so much that the two “performances” I had seen were almost word for word identical. But he implemented the techniques we had practised and managed to harness his nerves, transforming them into the energy he needed to get out there and deliver.

As he warmed up, John really began to relax and show us the “real” him. He took time to consider his words, as he would in real conversation, and he was able to be witty and emotionally-connected in a way that I hadn’t seen in his previous presentations. He referred to his own personal experiences, even talking about his own children; he was comfortable enough that his body language was natural and it really felt like a normal conversation between a group of people. By the end of the session, he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

In short: he nailed it.

How? Why was this, less polished, less shiny presentation making more of a connection with the audience than the perfect version John had delivered the week before?

It was because it wasn’t perfect.

We don’t want a perfect leader; we want a real leader.

We want someone who understands our fears and our frustrations and isn’t afraid to show their emotions. We want someone who feels our excitements and disappointments and sometimes gets a bit over-enthusiastic. And most of all, we want someone who we can trust to have our interests at the heart of everything they do.

Vulnerability might not be something you associate with leadership, but it is one of the most critical characteristics for a leader. A leader needs to be able to empathise with their team, and with their clients. None of us is perfect, and yet we seem to live in a world where we’re all striving for it: a 2018 University of Bath study found that, compared to previous generations at the same period of their lives, there was in increase in the extent to which young people place an irrational importance on “being perfect”. They also reported an increase in the extent to which they felt that others judge them harshly and that they must display perfection to secure approval.

We can blame social media, pushy parents and competition for university places and jobs, but the outcome is the same: we are breeding a generation of perfectionists for whom ‘vulnerability’ is a dirty word. This constant self-criticism becomes crippling over time, and we take it in to the workplace with us. We don’t want any cracks to show in our “perfect” veneer, because we think we will look weak.


We will look real.

If you can embrace, and even celebrate, your imperfections, you will become a leader that people can trust. You’re “one of us”, open to suggestions, and aware of your imperfections. No one is perfect, and we all know that. If you make out you have no faults, people will be suspicious of you and you will fail to get them on side.

When you’re planning your next presentation, think about how you can demonstrate your own, unique style of leadership. How you can show your audience who you really are, and that they can trust you.

My workshops are all about authenticity and connection. Here are some of the key elements we work on:

  • How to achieve a relaxed and authentic body language, so that you look and feel natural on stage
  • Using personal stories to build your connection
  • Empathy:  you are a person, just like everyone else! You know their problems and fears, and you get excited about the solution
  • How do we find a natural tempo, volume and expression?
  • Nerves: how to harness our nerves so they don’t make us act and speak differently!
  • It’s a conversation, not a presentation. Don’t perform: engage.


If you can get up and speak with authenticity, people will begin to turn to you as their spokesperson. They’ll see you as a leader if they can trust you as their advocate. Share who you are, and you’ll be amazed at the impact you’ll have.

Get in touch to find out how I can make a real difference to your leadership skills.