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5 things great speakers and great leaders have in common

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great speakersI recently read an article by leadership authority Roxi Hewertson, President & CEO of the Highland Consulting Group, that listed five things great leaders do, as well as five things failing leaders do. What struck me was how the information could easily be applied to public speaking.

The first thing Hewertson commented on was focusing on attitudes and behaviors when evaluating how you are performing. “These are the biggest differentiators between great leaders and failing leaders because they demonstrate the four core emotional intelligence metrics: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. These four factors are directly correlated with attitudes and behaviors that work for you or against those in a leadership role.”

The same can be said of speakers. Those who approach speaking with the right attitudes and behaviors that respect and engage an audience, that support being of service to the audience, are those who have more gigs on their calendar and more call backs to the same clients.

Five Things Great Speakers Do

They Know Their Emotional Landscape
Successful speakers understand their own emotions and recognize how those emotions, and the behaviors they generate, affect themselves and the audience.

“By developing an accurate view of, and aptly managing, your own emotional responses to situations — and the ways in which you impact others’ — the rest of your skills and talents will be duly magnified and leveraged,” says Hewertson. “Great leaders know what pushes their buttons. They know where their passions lie. They know how to manage themselves and others in times of high stakes emotion, crisis, conflict, and when backs are to the wall.”

Great speakers, because they know their emotional landscape and how to maneuver it, are better equipped to handle hecklers, technical difficulties and the numerous other things that can trip up an otherwise perfectly planned presentation.

Tip: Get to know yourself. Become comfortable in your own skin, as well as with your presentation, so you can handle challenges when they arise. Speak on topics you know well and are passionate about. That way you can “wing it” with style when the situation calls for it. Also, speaking from a place of earnest interest communicates authenticity to the audience, so they are more likely to both hear and listen to your message.

They Know Their Strengths and Limits
“The best leaders understand they can never know and do everything … and don’t pretend that they do,” says Hewertson. The best speakers not only develop a presentation niche that evolves from what they are best at, they know when to say know to speaking gigs that try to put them outside their expertise.

In addition, just like great leaders, great speakers, “surround themselves with people who are smarter and more experienced in areas of their own personal gaps.” They have staff and partners who help them get their message out into the world. They don’t try to do it all.

“When you understand what you know, don’t know, and how you tick, you can more readily understand how to lead others to their highest potential, honoring their unique needs, motivations, strengths, and challenges,” Hewertson says.

Tip: Take a look at what you are doing in your speaking career. Are you really good at all the things you are doing? If not, either cut those parts out or hire someone to do them for you.

They Know What They Are Capable Of
“There is a big divide between confidence and arrogance,” says Hewertson. “Confidence comes from a strong sense of self-worth and self-awareness. Arrogance comes from fear in many cases and a sense of entitlement in others. The best leaders are very confident in what they know and can do from an objective view, rather than an assumed view.”

The best speakers are the same way. They know what they are capable of. And they aren’t afraid to let others who are better at things they aren’t good at to take the stage. Great speakers are continuously “sharpening the saw” (to borrow a phrase from Stephen Covey). They have an abundance mindset and welcome sharing the stage with fellow experts, when the event calls for it.

Tip: Learn to love yourself where you are currently at. Make plans (and follow through on those plans) to improve your skills and grow your knowledge. Be gracious with others. Cultivate an abundance mindset … there are plenty of audiences for us all.

Their Cups Are Half Full
“There are two kinds of attitudes in the world,” says Hewertson, “those who think and act through the lens of abundance and those who think and act through a lens of scarcity.” Regardless of the situation, she says, “Great leaders go for solutions, new ideas, and silver linings, even in the worst of times.”

Great speakers are very good at holding up what is possible and positive about their area expertise and sharing it with their audience. They radiate hope in dark times and are persistent believers in the benefits of optimism. Like the best leaders, they “will tell the truth even if the ‘sky is falling’ and then shine a light on the path to get everyone to a better place.”

Tip: Cultivate a “cup half overflowing” view of life. Look for silver linings and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. You don’t need to fall into Polyanna-ism to view the world through appropriately rose-colored glasses.

They Take Every Opportunity to Contribute to the Greater Good
According to Hewertson, great leaders often build “a legacy that contributes to something far more important than their personal agendas.” They “have an achievement orientation that is laser focused on the greater good.”

Great speakers are always on the look out for win-win-win situations. They don’t necessarily sacrifice their own good, rather they always seek ways to win while everyone else — those who book them and those who sit in the audience — win, as well. They also avoid participating in activities where they are the only ones who win.

“Great leaders believe in a shared vision,” says Hewertson, “and continuously drive to the best outcome for the most people involved.” Great speakers build shared visions and spread them to as many people as they can.

Tip: Take the ethical high road at all times. Always look for ways to accomplish what you want that benefit everyone involved.


In my next post, I’ll share the five things failing leaders and speakers have in common.

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About the author

Carma Spence, The Own Your Awesome Mentor, is author of Public Speaking Super Powers. She is fiercely committed to guiding women to Owning their Awesome and turning it into a profitable business. She is masterful at helping her clients see what is possible for them and supporting them on the journey from where they are to where they want to be, releasing the Mind Goblins of self-doubt, self-sabotage and second-guessing that keep them stuck.

With 20+ years experience in marketing communications and public relations, natural intuitive skills and certification in using some of the most effective transformational coaching tools available, Carma’s mission and commitment is to unleash the inner power every woman entrepreneur possesses so they can boldly go out into the world, transforming the fabric of people’s lives in meaningful and positive ways.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Her website is CarmaSpence.com.