Thought Leadership

Emerge as a Leader Through the Power of Speaking

“Every time you speak, you are auditioning for leadership.”

—James Humes


How can I convince my manager I’m ready for a promotion? What is one way to ace my job interview? How can I get people to take me more seriously? 


In my work as an executive and leadership coach, I often hear questions like these from leaders of all ages across industries and geographies.  Essentially, they ask one question: How can I emerge as a leader? 


Whether a person is trying to convince their manager that they are ready to be promoted to a new role that moves them from an individual contributor to a position of authority, be it a team lead, project manager, people manager, or an established leader of people to a leader of managers, or simply to ace a job interview, or be seen more seriously and thereby be seen as more thoughtful, contemplative and more capably and not just a fun person to be around, it all requires being seen as a leader.  This is true even if we don’t have a formal leadership role or title.  A person must be “seen” in a role before they get to do the role.  


How does a person emerge as a leader? I created a framework of ten categories of emerging leaders.  Nine categories were published in my book “140 Simple Messages to Guide Emerging Leaders” in 2018.  During the global pandemic, I added a tenth category when I was interviewed and featured in Forbes. One key lever essential in several categories is the need to be cognizant of how we use the power of “the spoken word”—our voice.  To that end, I like the words of the speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, James Humes: “Every time you speak, you are auditioning for leadership.”


These wise words from James Humes are simple and accurate.  It’s not an exaggeration to say EVERY time.  We are evaluated when we speak to people one-on-one, in a small group over coffee, in a formal meeting, or give a presentation in front of an audience.  This “tryout” or audition often dictates our ability to grow, meet our goals, and succeed.  Some statistics indicate people who don’t speak up or speak well have a 20% chance of stifling their chances of securing a promotion.  Many people have heard the phrase: “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” Perhaps it was a parent or a significant other who shared this, and it was because words were used in a way that hurt.  It is also an accurate phrase indicating that to be seen as a leader, a person must go beyond concern for the content of their message and pay keen attention to HOW they say it. We must seize every opportunity to speak and to speak effectively to emerge as a leader.


How can you become a more effective speaker?  Let’s consider three basic options.

  • Listen: It’s worthwhile to see yourself and listen to yourself to enhance your intonation while reflecting on your posture and facial expressions.  To accomplish this, try recording yourself speaking using your mobile device camera. Additionally, it’s helpful to ask others for their feedback and listen to what they say to help you improve.
  • Read: Daily reading enhances speech, especially if it is done audibly. The process of taking in information with the eyes while hearing it with the ears builds vocabulary, memory, and the ability to use words, phrases, and grammar in daily conversations naturally. Consider scheduling 15 minutes a day to read audibly. You’ll be pleased by the results in as little as 21 days.
  • Practice: Many people have heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.”  I believe that, and I believe that “Practice makes permanent.” Therefore, we must practice and ensure we practice the proper skills and behaviors; otherwise, we risk being permanently saddled with counterproductive bad habits. 


Start with the suggestions of listening to yourself and others and daily reading. These are two excellent behaviors to practice. Then, you can select specific low-risk opportunities in your daily life to apply what you have practiced in private. Once you practice in private and then in low-risk situations, you will be able to seamlessly and successfully audition for leadership every time you speak!


About the Author

Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®, is a leadership consultant who, through executive and leadership coaching, facilitation, and professional speaking (keynotes), works with leaders to “Accelerate Performance and Drive Impact!”®

Eddie delivers “intellectual capital on demand” through leadership development programs, presentation skills coaching, strategic planning workshops, management consulting, and high-level meeting facilitation. He also creates voice-overs and serves as a master of ceremonies (emcee), a panel and event moderator, a national media commentator, and a podcast host.