Delivering 65 to 70 keynote addresses a year means I get a front row seat to a lot of executive updates. From Annual Sales Convention to Leadership Forums, I follow a lot of leaders addressing their teams, celebrating big wins, and laying out the vision for the coming year.

Sitting in on these talks is a fantastic opportunity to hear what’s top of mind for organizations and industries. What’s the outlook? How are people feeling about the economy? What’s around the corner keeping leaders awake at night? Etc.

But as great as these insights are, that’s not what stands out when I think about watching these addresses over the past few years. What’s stand out is an unfortunate number of a leaders standing behind a podium reading word for word from a teleprompter.

You’ve seen this. A c-suite exec reading the latest meticulously crafted corporate mantra straight from the communications team laptop. Sometimes appearing to read it for the first time.

Watching these addresses has always bothered me but it wasn’t until an audience member came up to me after a recent event and specifically commented on how much they appreciate the fact that I had just come out and spoke from the heart, that I really began to see what a crisis this is.  

You see prior to me going on stage at this particular event, four of the organizations sr. leaders had proceeded to read directly from the monitors in front of the stage, each one sounding more robotic than the next.

Painful.

The truth is these leaders did not need to use that prompter. They were all very smart, intuitive, fun, engaging people.  Unfortunately none of that was conveyed in their remarks.

Why?

Many times we get too hung up on the “corporate messaging”. We worry if we’re "on message” hitting the TEN Strategic Pillars of the 2020 Vision that we loose connection with what people are really yearning for from their leaders.

Yes the 2020 Vision is important but if you can’t as a leader just speak to that vision, if you can’t just come straight from the heart on why you’re asking your people to sacrifice their time and energy towards this goal, you’re going to have a hard time moving the needle when it comes to getting buy-in.  

When it comes to leadership today, authenticity matters most.

The days of the perfect CEO with the perfect corporate mantra are over.

Fortunately I see glimmers of hope. This week I also watched a Gen X female Partner at one of the largest accounting firms in the world stand up in front of her people and talk to them like family and friends.

Did she hit on the key messages the division was focusing on? Yes. Was it perfectly delivered? No. Was it perfect for her people? Absolutely.  

You could feel the energy in the room was different than most executive briefings.

She made it feel like they were really in it together. She cared about them. She understood their roles and the client demands. She made them believe that she had their backs and that together they could accomplish the big goals they had sent forth.

This is the future of leadership. Empathy. Compassion. Vulnerability. Relate-ability.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  Seth, I’m not a public speaker. I’m not a powerful presenter.

You don’t have to be!

You don’t have to be perfect. In fact it’s better if you’re not. Just be you. It’s enough.