CEO Insider

How Authenticity Can Provide Key to Success in Leadership

Due to the changing business climate and staffing challenges around the world, this era is being called “The Great Resignation.” However, there is a way of helping professionals and leaders get promoted from within, landing desirable jobs while at the same time increasing sales and revenue substantially.  Authenticity is the most powerful way of adding value by expressing unique talents for your chosen audience.

Authenticity can be broken down into three key elements: Presence, Audience and Presentation.


As a leader, you want to project a level of confidence. However, confidence can be confused with arrogance, which can often be a sign of insecurities. This, in turn, can hinder the perception of your leadership skills. To have a better idea of how you may appear to others, it’s a good idea to record yourself presenting to a group and watch for various key signs.

  • First, be mindful of the words you choose. Condescending remarks can create a perception of superiority, while too much self-deprecation can undercut your skills as a leader. Find a middle ground in your verbiage that exudes modesty and ability. That said, do not be afraid to acknowledge any areas in which you feel could use improvement. A great leader not only leads, but he learns from those around them.
  • Not everyone is perfect, so owning up to your mistakes is key to showing that you are not too full of yourself to acknowledge your errors, and more importantly, be self-aware enough to learn from them. On the flip side, celebrating the accomplishments of others demonstrates that you are not only a team player, but are confident in your own abilities to step back and let others shine.
  • Body language is often the first impression that you make, so make it count. Entering a room with your chin up with a confident stride not only instills a level of confidence in yourself but also lets those in the room know that you know that you belong there. Anything else can be interrupted as arrogant disinterest. And don’t forget that a smile can go a long way.


Whether you are addressing clients, colleagues, or employees, there are four questions you want to ask yourself about your audience before a presentation.

  • First, what’s most important to them? Do your research. If you don’t know, ask people in their inner circle who do know. A lengthy presentation is worthless if their needs are not being addressed or if the information is irrelevant to them.
  • Second, what are they willing to compromise? Are they more willing to compromise cost, schedule, or quality? There is a give and take to every business and knowing where that threshold lies can be key in keeping their attention and making the presentation worth their time.
  • Third, how much detail do they need? Is the information you’re providing relevant to the message as a whole? Overly detailed infographics or pie charts can alienate your audience and contribute to a time-wasting presentation.
  • Fourth, what hooks them? You have approximately sixty to ninety seconds to bring an audience in and get them to pay attention to you. Use that time wisely. Let them know immediately that this presentation is relevant to their interests and/or is going to keep them engaged as an audience.

It is also important to understand the style of the key decision maker(s) you are presenting to. For example, are they more of a point person, people person, planner person, or party person, and then tailor your language accordingly. It is an authentic choice for a person to be in front of an audience, so knowing how to adapt to that audience helps them best serve their audience and get to yes in any presentation.


Once you understand your audience, then you can move on to the presentation itself. What is that previously mentioned hook going to be?

  • Beginning with a relevant quote or a vulnerable and/or anecdotal story can not only reel your audience in but also set the foundation for relatability.
  • An important aspect of your presentation is including a good executive summary. That’s the bottom line, upfront. An executive summary needs to include three things. One is your purpose. Why are you there? Are you there to update them on something, inform them of something, inspire them? Another is establishing what’s in it for them to listen. Is it going to be cost savings? Is it going to have an impact on their career? How will this presentation impact your audience?
  • Lastly, an executive summary must include what it is you want at the end of your presentation because then people know how to listen. If you want a decision, then they’ll know what to listen for to make that decision. It helps the audience funnel the information being presented. Front-loading that information also prevents it from being lost should your presentation be cut short.

Those who fake it will never make it. Success in any endeavor demands authenticity, which is the most powerful way of adding value by expressing your unique gifts and talents for your chosen audience.

Written by Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman.

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Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman
Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman is the Founder and CEO of Inside Out Learning, Inc. (IOL), an award‐winning global leadership, team and organization development consulting business. She has designed and delivered over 3,000 innovative programs, including many women’s development and executive presence and presentation skills programs. Dr. Sharon has worked with tens of thousands of CEOs, executives, educators, professionals, and entrepreneurs worldwide. Her new book, The Authenticity Code™, is available for preorder on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.