Speak Like a Leader

present with people Mar 04, 2024
Don't Get Stuck on the Corporate Ladder




Let me introduce you to Rob.

Rob has been working for his company for five years and he is a very capable leader. Loves his company and loves the different opportunities he’s been given to lead. He’s grown, he’s learned a lot and he’s expanded his leadership.

Every year, Rob receives glowing marks on his performance evaluations. He’s known for the way he steps up and accomplishes his tasks.

But (and that’s a very big “but”) something’s missing.

He has led a few small teams and a few projects, but has never been given the opportunity to directly lead any staff nor is he asked to speak in front of people very often.

There’s a reason for that.

He does okay. By “okay” I mean that he gets up, presents the information and sits back down. He’s typically done before anyone noticed he was even up. His belief in himself while speaking in front of his team is dismally low and he just hasn’t been able to pull himself together to successfully present information from the front.

Every year, there's typically one thing that does come up on his performance evaluations that needs improvement:

Public Speaking.

This has to change and Rob knows it. Overtime, He has noticed that his peers who have been promoted or have been given new leadership opportunities at his company have primarily been the ones who are confident when they speak upfront. They are the team members that get up like they’re just talking to someone one-on-one. They help the people in the room laugh and they do an excellent job of presenting the information.

So as Rob targeted his goals, he knew his number one goal for this quarter would be to work on his communication skills.




Have you ever experienced this type of situation? Have you ever felt robbed of a promotion or passed up while seeing other peers given new responsibilities and in many cases, pay raises? Rob had this gut feeling that the key to his problem was to find a solution on how he could improve his public speaking skills.

He wanted to be able to stand up in front of a room and command their attention. He wanted to speak in a way that captivated his audience long enough that they would pay attention to him. Really, not only pay attention to him, but respond. He wanted them to lean in, and ultimately, make decisions based on what he was saying.

Rob wanted to speak like a leader.

So many professionals get this wrong. They think speaking like a leader is being the loudest person in the room or speaking with the most amount of force. They think it means being in charge and making all of the decisions.

That’s just not the case at all. Yes, leaders command the room when they speak. But when they do it in a healthy, influential way, they engage their people and compel them toward action, making the best decisions based on what they are presenting.

Wouldn’t that be great for every leader? Here’s how Indra Nooyi, former PepsiCo CEO, communicates this concept: 

“You cannot over invest in communication skills. If you can’t simplify a message and communicate it in a compelling way, you cannot get people to follow you.”

That’s it! That’s how to speak like a leader. At Speak with People, we’re passionate about empowering you to succeed with your communication skills. Seriously, we stay up at night dreaming of ways to help you crush your next presentation, to run better meetings, to write stronger strategic plans and to be a healthy, influential communicator.

That’s why we believe the key to being able to speak like a leader is to speak with people and not at them.

“With” or “At”? Have you ever thought of it that way?

Dr John Maxwell wrote an incredible book titled: ‘Everyone communicates, few connect’. Many leaders communicate, but he’s so correct, few truly connect. When you speak with people, you communicate in healthy ways and you truly connect. When we value connection with our audience, we will speak with people and be healthier and more influential leaders and communicators.

The opposite is to speak at people. This is what gets in the way of you speaking like a leader. When we speak “at” people, we force them to listen. We do it by shoving information at them or manipulating the conversation. Or just simply, we obsess with our needs and not our audience.

Does speaking “at” people work? Actually, that’s communication’s dirty little secret. In some cases it does work. They will probably listen. But over time, in the long run, it will stop working.

How do you stack up when it comes down to communication “with” or “at”?




If you want to truly speak like a leader, you have to invest in your communication skills and make a commitment to speaking with people. By investing in yourself and your communication skills you will:

  1. Experience an increase in self-confidence.
  2. Communicate more clearly.
  3. Articulate your thoughts quicker.
  4. Run better meetings.
  5. Engage more effectively with your online communication.

This is just a short list of the benefits you will gain from this decision and I’m sure you can think of others.

Here’s the reality: There is such great power in public speaking.

Your leadership will be viewed differently. People will follow you more quickly. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it like this: ”Speech is power. Speech is to persuade, convert and compel.”

It’s time for you to speak like a leader and you can do that by Speaking with people, not at them. Here are three simple steps you can take to begin this new journey:

1) Be You.

Stop trying so hard to be someone else when you communicate. Whether that’s how you write posts on social media, how you communicate in a meeting or how you present in front of people. It is ok to learn what we can from other leaders, but when we start to copy, it takes away from how we were wired to communicate. Here’s the reality, you are the you on the planet, so just be you. Discover your voice and stick to it.

2) Be Obsessed.

Now, this is where we turn the corner. I’m asking you to stop obsessing over yourself and become obsessed with your audience's needs and success. I want to make sure you understand the level of obsession I’m talking about. Think ‘Swiftie’ level. If you don’t get the reference, google Taylor Swift. If you’re going to speak like a leader and speak with people, you have to dive deep into their needs and provide a solution for their problem.

3) Be Clear.

Bring a level of clarity that doesn’t make your audience’s brain work overtime trying to figure out where you’re going. That may work for a Christopher Nolan movie, but if you want to be successful and speak like a leader, embrace clarity like it is a long lost friend!

These three steps seem simple enough on the surface, but over the next three weeks, we will dive into each step in greater depth and put them into action. Putting them into action will take a lot of hard work, but the return on this investment is going to be explosive for your leadership.

If you make the commitment to learning how to speak with people and not at them, you will start to separate yourself from the other employees and you will get your boss’s attention. Like Jeff Henderson says:

“The better we communicate, the better we lead.”

That is so true. And not to ruin the surprise, but something downright magical happens when you start communicating in front of people. Your leadership will expand. It will grow. People will follow you. Because, like Jeff Henderon says, “Eventually, leadership comes with a microphone.”

Rob made the investment. He spent all quarter listening to communication podcasts. He read four books that transformed how he thought about communication and joined a toastmasters club. He did the hard work to improve his upfront speaking skills. And most importantly, he committed to speaking with people, not at them so he could speak like a leader.

If you’re interested in making an investment and going on the journey that Rob did, Speak with People has created an online learning course for you. It’s called “Speak Like a Leader” and it will empower you to prepare with clarity, deliver with confidence and influence people to act.


By Jason Raitz - President, Speak with People

As a communication coach, Jason loves empowering leaders to become healthy and influential communicators. In his free time, he enjoys watching baseball and spending time with his family.