The Exclusive Career Coach

The Exclusive Career Coach

068: Speaking with Leadership Authority

February 13, 2019



All this quarter, I’m talking about various aspects of leadership. Today, I want to talk about Speaking with Leadership Authority.

An important piece of your leadership strength is in the presence you have when communicating, either one-on-one or to a group.

Here are five top tips according to

1. Replace "Um" With Stronger Filler Words

In the moment, it's hard not to say "uh, um," while you try to gather your thoughts. Great speakers rarely use the distracting sound. But if you listen close, it's not that they avoid pauses all together. They instead replace "uh” and “um" with stronger filler words.

When you need to gather your thoughts, use words such as "Now; You See; However," etc. The sentence, "Um…I was thinking..." suddenly sounds much more definitive and powerful when slightly adjusted to "You see, I was thinking...". It sounds intentional, and intention instills confidence.

2. Know the Power Of Silence

The best speakers know the power of silence. They are unafraid of letting the room wait for a moment. These speakers can sit calmly for a breath or two in total silence and feel comfortable--and actually use it to their advantage.

Unintentional silence can be seen as a mistake, or a sign of uncertainty. Intentional silence, however, is seen as dramatic and even more important. Instead of seeing moments of silence as issues for concern, turn them to work for you by making your next statement that much more poignant. Use silence to lean into your points and your audience will hear you much more clearly.

3. Do Not Make Things Complicated

The quickest way to know whether or not someone knows what they're talking about is to pay attention to how many industry-specific words they use. If their vocabulary is a fashion show of insider adjectives, chances are they are speaking more from a place of theory and less from a place of experience.

Great speakers and people who carry themselves well know how to get to the point. They don't dance around it. They don't throw around handfuls of buzzwords. They say what needs to be said and leave it at that.

If you use language that leaves your audience confused, you aren't impressing them. You are frustrating them. Keep it simple.

4. Don't Curse

Unless you've built a reputation or a persona around your "edgy" delivery, it's best to leave the sailor's mouth at home. When it comes to leading a room, it is in your best interest to keep the energy and the flow as positive as possible. Unless you know your audience very well, you never know where a misplaced word could lead. Don't add in an extra variable that doesn't need to be there.

This doesn't mean you have to keep your language G rated. Say what you need to say, in the way it needs to be said.

5. Tell A Story

I have watched so many rooms turn the corner after a well-told story.

Stories are how we relate to each other. Stories are what ignite our imagination and turn a thought into a feeling, an idea into reality. 

Whether you are explaining a data point, or hinting at the outcomes of a campaign, be descriptive. Use sensory words--touch, taste, smell, a feeling, a sound. Bring what you are talking about to life and let the people in the room be part of it.


Forbes Magazine adds the following advice:

Get to the point.

Your competition is the attention span. Rambling, unfocused speeches will earn you few supporters. A powerful presentation stays on message, is made up of short sentences and few asides, and gets to the point quickly.


Slow down and breathe.

When PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi first travelled from India to the U.S. to attend the Yale School of Management, she spoke so fast that she barely paused to breathe. Nooyi had to learn a slower, more effective pace that leant more authority to her ideas. Broadcasters usually speak at a pace of 150 words per minute, which is conversational yet metered.


Utilize your vocal tools.

The worst thing you could do is drone on using a flat monotone with no variance in pitch or pace. The voice is one of the most underused tools and can be manipulated to project power and incite interest. Optimize it by using a mid-range pitch, inflection to offer emphasis and variety, a volume that attracts attention but is not overly loud, pauses after important sentiments and clear pronunciation so that words are not lost.


Inject humor and warmth.

Female leaders like IMF chief Christine Lagarde and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg are excellent examples of women who are articulate and well-spoken but also utilize humor to connect with the audience. They project an ease and optimism that invites in listeners and establishes credibility.

There are also non-verbal components to communicating like a leader. According to Forbes:


Stand like a champion.

Giving presentations and making speeches is very physical. When on stage or standing before a group of people, use the champion stance: position one foot in front of the other, place your weight on the back foot, hold your head up, drop your shoulders back, lean your torso slightly forward and smile.

I would add to place your hands in the power pose – in front of you, in a pyramid, facing the audience. Avoid the “I have to go potty” stance with your hands in front of your crotch; hands behind your back can negatively impact they way your outfit hangs.


Sit with your elbows on the table.

When sitting down, get your elbows on the table. Don’t put just your hands on the table; it looks too lady-like. Instead, sit up straight, lean forward and place your forearms on the table-top. Whether in person or on camera, maintain eye contact with fellow speakers or the camera lens.


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