Karin’s Leadership Articles

As part of our Mean It Madness Month I invited Kathryn Cramer to share her approach to speaking with authenticity. Say it with soul.

A Guest Post from Dr. Kathy Cramer

Saying it with soul is about meaning what you say—and saying something meaningful. It’s about putting yourself and your message on the line. It is about showing your skin in the game.

This can be a tall order for leaders, even when the core of their message is something positive. But why?

It Exposes Your Vulnerability – Whenever you communicate what something means to you, you are revealing something important about yourself. You, not your words, are the message. Soul is something you already have—it is your values and beliefs, your character, your mighty cause, your unique, authentic leadership presence in the world. Communicating with soul is a matter of revealing and demonstrating what you already have.

A Sense Of False Modesty – We are socialized not to brag and to view ego as a turn-off. But authentic humility is also about having the confidence to own and express the best of who we are.

You Think That Nobody Cares – Often leaders think their teams are not concerned with what the leaders think is important; people only care about their own well-being. That statement is true. People do care most about their own well-being, but that is why they need to know that their leaders have personal skin in the game. If you are genuinely committed and personally invested in a cause, then it lowers the bar for your team to get on board. People have a built-in Geiger counter as to whether leaders are being true to what they value, and showing your skin in the game creates authenticity over time.

An Exercise

The more aware you are of when you are perceived by others as sincere and authentic, the more intentional you can be about demonstrating those qualities. The following feedback exercise from Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do helps increase your awareness of these occasions by seeking feedback from trusted members of your circle.

Identify five people who have regular contact with you. Ask each person to answer the following questions:

  1. Can you remember a time when you felt like I was speaking sincerely and authentically?
  2. What was I talking about?
  3. How could you tell I was being sincere?

The patterns from this sincerity feedback process may surprise you. For instance, one sales executive who prided himself on his self-confidence found out, to his surprise, that it was when he opened up about his struggles that people saw him as most sincere and authentic. His respondents recommended that he reveal his critical thinking process when trying to sell to a potential customer.

For this sales leader, all he needed was the feedback about letting people into his thought process. There was no new skill he needed to develop; it was simply a matter of being more open and transparent. That is precisely what saying it with soul is all about.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Terri Klass

    I really like the exercise that you shared as it requires us to dig deeply into ourselves and understand who we are and what motivates us.

    It takes me time to allow others to see my vulnerabilities but when I do feel I can trust them and reveal my complete self, I create rapport and more meaningful relationships. I am seeing this now as I am working with a group of young leaders who are struggling to find their voice and place in an organization. As they let me in on some of their vulnerabilities, an authentic leader is emerging.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Terri, Thanks so much. I loved the simplicity of her exercise as well. Vulnerability takes time. Love that you are drawing that out of young leaders…. let the magic begin.

  2. bill holston

    Great, thank you. I so appreciate the consistency of this message about authenticity. I once told a pastor that sharing honestly about life felt like ‘preaching naked,’ and it does. It feels vulnerable, because it is, but so worth the risk.

    I’m going to distribute these questions right away.


    • letsgrowleaders

      Bill… The best preaching (and leading) comes from naked. Amen.

  3. Joy Guthrie

    Really like the questions you include in the post. Thank you.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Joy, I loved them too…. it’s fun to see how others approach the “meaning it” conversation.

  4. LaRae Quy

    Great exercise! I have also found that when I speak with authenticity and passion, I don’t need notes! It truly comes from the heart and doesn’t need to be “memorized.”

    Thanks for sharing.

    • bill holston

      Great point LaRae. I had an interesting experience last year. I gave an audition for our local TEDX talk. The powerpoint messed up on this timed presentation so I was forced to quit using slides and talk from my heart. I got great feedback about it.

    • letsgrowleaders

      LaRae, So agreed! I always worry when leaders “over practice” their talks. Best to speak from the heart and let the meaning flow.

  5. letsgrowleaders

    Bill, I’ve seen that happen on both sides. When the leader can’t “cope” that’s a sign… when they can regroup and speak from the heart…. that’s leadership.

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