Podcast: Blake Woolsey on What It Takes to Be an Authentic Leader


Authenticity is critical for leaders, especially in moments when they are in the spotlight, according to PR pro Blake Woolsey.

On this episode of the Leadercast Podcast, Leadercast discusses this month’s theme of authenticity with Blake, who previously served as executive vice president at Mitchell before starting her own business (Blake Communications Inc.) in executive coaching, communication training and facilitation. 

“I help companies build strategy where they know what that business plan is going to be like for the next 18 months, but also forcing them to look much farther ahead even 10 years down the road,” she says.

Blake will serve as emcee for our upcoming Leadercast Women XNA event, happening Nov. 19 at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Rogers, Arkansas. Read on for an inside look at the episode and listen to it above.

Authentic Communication for Leaders

Blake spends a lot of time preparing leaders to speak to media, large audiences and teams. “Authenticity is very important,” she says, crediting millennials with pushing authenticity as a value in media communication. “People want to be able to trust you. Authenticity has to come across.”

Here are Blake’s tips for keeping that communication authentic:

1. Go Off Script

Don’t just rigidly read from a script. “As much as you want to write a script and as much as you rehearse, at some point, you have to be able to put the script down,” she shares.

You have to recognize that you’re the person helping bring to life the brand that you represent. “People are what make a brand live and breathe, and people need to trust a brand. And so they need to see that in you.”

2. Tell a Story

Instead of giving a speech, try telling a story. “Stories about people who you're surrounded by and you've seen their success, or how they've skinned their knees and then been able to pull themselves back up and be resilient—those are things people want to hear,” she says.

Acknowledge Your Influence

Authentic leaders are leaders of influence. “The very first piece of being a leader of influence is self-awareness,” shares Blake. “The moment you quit working on your self-awareness is the moment you quit growing.” TWEET

Being authentic is a three-tiered process:

  1. Understanding who you are
  2. Understanding other people
  3. Understanding how other people see you

You need to be self-aware, and then you need to be aware of those around you—to be intuitive about others and how you communicate with them. “As a leader, sometimes it's not easy to be told things need to change or be improved about you, but if you do something about it, you engender that much more trust as a leader,” says Blake. TWEET

Pursuing Self-Awareness

Seek feedback to try to improve yourself. If someone offers to do an assessment of you, you should jump for joy. “It is such a great reminder of the things that I am [and] the talents that God gave me,” explains Blake.

Assessments are great reminders of your talents and behaviors, both positive and negative. Blake mentions several assessments leaders can utilize: Harrison, Birkman, Myers-Briggs, Hogan, DiSC, StrengthsFinder and the Enneagram. Any of these will make a leader more self-aware.

How Others Perceive You

In the worst-case scenario when a leader is faced with a PR nightmare, how others perceive them becomes synonymous with how others perceive the brand—so authenticity is more important than ever.

“You communicate as much as you possibly can, whether that's external or whether that's internal,” says Blake. When people understand that you are sharing as much as you’re able with them, they’ll be more willing to trust you. People know when you're dancing around something you don’t want to say. 

Here’s where not using a script really comes into play: “It not being corporate language, that it really is coming from you in your words, that helps for people to know that you really are telling as much as you can,” she explains.

Transparency and authenticity go hand-in-hand here. “You tell them, ‘I am not able to tell you any more information at this point in time. But as things continue to unfold, I will come right back to you and I will share all of the news I possibly can with you,’” Blake says.

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Connect with Blake on LinkedIn and join her as she emcees Leadercast Women XNA on Nov. 19 at John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Rogers, Arkansas.

Listen to our full interview with Blake by subscribing to the Leadercast Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher.

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