Is Fear Keeping You from Leadership Positions?

Have you ever said to yourself, “I want to be a leader in my industry, but not quite yet?”

What’s holding you back? For many people, it’s fear of leading more than one person at a time. Because that means you have to speak to groups of people. Unfortunately, we human beings are genetically programmed to fear being separated from the herd and seen by others. This means public speaking is a fear. 

(Please watch the video I made for you here, going into more detail)

I’ve come across countless executives over my career who told me “I’m really comfortable speaking one on one and in small groups of people, but the second I have to stand up and speak to a larger group of people, I’m out of my comfort zone, I get nervous, I get uncomfortable, I freeze, I forget what I’m gonna say. It’s just a disaster!“

Is this something you can relate to?

It’s a problem most people have, but it is a problem that all true leaders figure out how to solve.

Sure, it’s possible to establish leadership through writing a great book, or publishing excellent research articles. But in most industries, you simply do not reach the highest levels of leadership if you can’t speak regularly to audiences of any and every size. 

It really doesn’t matter if you are trying to be a leader in the world of finance, world affairs, or technology. If you want to demonstrate leadership, and be successful at the highest level of your industry, you have to speak not just one-on-one with colleagues, customers and clients. But you have to speak at conferences and trade association meetings where there could be 100 or 5000 people present. 

You have to be able to speak on zoom and webinars when you don’t really know if there are two people watching or 2000, and you don’t really know if they’re paying close attention or playing video games on their cell phone. You might have to speak at a moment’s notice on an influential podcast, or even host your own podcast.

People like to use a lot of abstract terms and phrases to define leadership, things, such as “charisma“ and having the “it factor.“ But the number one factor that helps most people become successful in leadership roles is right in front of us and it’s not talked about as much. It’s not as glamorous and sexy as “charisma.” 

It’s plain, old fashion, presenting skills.

Yes, if you aspire to top leadership positions in any field, what you need to be able to do is learn how to present yourself and your ideas to larger groups of people.

Most people are successful communicators when it’s talking to one person they already know and like. The problem is we humans become fearful once we have to speak to a certain number of people, larger than what we are used to.

Our hearts race, our palms get sweaty, adrenaline is flowing through our bodies. Our brain says “think.“ But our body says “run!“

But if you run away from every speaking opportunity, presentation, media, interview, or panel discussion you’re invited to, you destroy your chances of being seen as a leader. You can’t lead if you are invisible. And no, having a nicer logo or color scheme or brand image won’t help much. (“Personal Brand” is another concept that is often a time-wasting concept for many professionals, given that they have no brand at all if they don’t speak and present regularly.)

So what’s the secret to conquering this fear?

My clients have told me they literally cannot think once they stand up and they see a lot of eyes staring at them.

The solution to this is: “don’t think.“

What do I mean by that?

It’s only natural to be uncomfortable when there are a lot of eyes staring at you. The solution is to do your thinking before you ever stand up in front of people or start speaking in front of a video camera. (Yes, “thinking on your feet” is a highly overrated skill and unnecessary if you do proper homework in advance.)

The key is to figure out just a few ideas in advance of any presentation you want to convey. Then, come up with a simple story, or examples, to make each point come alive. Then, and here’s the part you aren’t going to like, you need to pull out your cell phone, and practice what you want to say when you are all alone. 

Next, look at the video. Figure out what you like and don’t like. Keep practicing until you actually like how you were coming across. It might be something you can do in 60 seconds. It might be something that takes eight hours.

But if you want to increase your odds of becoming a successful leader, and be seen as someone who communicates as a successful leader, then this is the price you have to pay.

Don’t stop practicing until you have fallen in love with the video of how you’re coming across.

Now, when you have the opportunity to speak in front of larger groups, or in intimidating situations, like a live TV interview, you no longer have to “think.” You can simply go through the stuff you’ve already practiced a bunch of times. (It’s kind of like what you do when someone new you meet asks you where you are from or what you do for a living. It’s easy to answer because you aren’t having to think of new stuff each time. You already have a template from past conversations)

It’s Important to note, you should not memorize. That’s really hard. You’re not using the script of a Broadway playwright. 

All you have to focus on is conveying your ideas, using the simplest words possible, and making sure you use examples and stories. If you do that, chances are, you’ll be the best speaker anyone sees that day, and you will be perceived as a highly authoritative leader.

This is something you can do entirely on your own. But many people like to speed up the process, so that’s why I’ve created a new hybrid coaching program, The High Stakes Presenter. In this live virtual course, we help people transform themselves into successful leaders of their industries if they currently have average and above average presentation skills, by training them to have outstanding communication skills for every presentation opportunity they have in their career. If you’re interested in exploring this option, please book a call with us today. Here’s the link.

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