Leadership Moments of Truth

There are two times a leader has to be persuasive, has to pitch and present and leaders are typically good at one and poor at the other:

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In a small group: Small groups (anywhere between 2 people and 10 people) are groups where leaders can either shine or fail based upon their own personal hang-ups, tics, and character traits. If a leader connects warmly with a handshake (increasing cooperation) and makes eye contact (in the Western world at least) they tend to be able to navigate the small group interactions and can easily dominate the conversation.

In a small group though, the delicate balance is between speaking too much (pitching) and not listening enough. This is a discipline that bears out its presence in the ultimate small-group presentation, the meeting. Most meetings represent a poor use of organizational resources because the same traits that guided the leader in even smaller groups fail when the group grows larger.

In a large group: Large groups (anywhere between 10 people up to massive stadiums of people) are the places where leaders (like many other folks) sometimes try to “scale up” the skills that make them formidable in a one-on-one environment and they fail. This is also the place where leaders lean in on using tools to mask their inexperience, their nervousness, or their lack of knowledge/interest/passion about a subject.

The reason that political leaders do well at presenting to large groups and many corporate leaders don’t is that political leaders are naturally able to “fake it until they make it” and a project that passion onto the crow.

Whereas hard-charging, revenue-generating executives are secretly wondering why they have to do this “presenting thing” at all in the first place.

Leadership Delicate Balances

In a large group, the delicate balance is between presenting with passion and rambling on about a point. Presenting with passion is a discipline that can be coached, but the real problem is getting the leader’s ego out of the way, getting the leader into a stance of learning, and then preparing the leader to succeed. And letting the props, the slides, and the crutches fall by the wayside.

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Every manager, supervisor, and even employee should be taught how to connect in a small group to other people, by using the skills of active listening, actively engaging, eye contact, and paraphrasing.

Every manager and supervisor and even employee should be taught how to connect with a much larger group (either a meeting sized group or a larger group) by using the skills of tapping into their passion and energy, knowing their subject inside and out, and using tools like Powerpoint as aids, not crutches.

This practice, well maintained and supported, can help leaders grow with influence within their teams and their organizations, and their cultures.

Leadership Considerations

But too many organizational leaders don’t spend time preparing for presentations, don’t think that such preparation is necessary (except at the point of actually having to present) and many organizational leaders look at such training as another “nice to have” but not a “critical to succeed.”

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In a world of instant information (and sometimes instant wrong information about organizations) leaders need to change their thinking, or someone else will change the audience’s thinking about their organization, for them first.


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