How To Be An Assertive Leader

Everyone wants to be a great leader and do great things, and assertiveness and a key component of the recipe.

Being an assertive leader can lead you to great places, landing promotions and producing real results for a business, as well as personal and team growth. Most importantly, Assertive leaders in the workplace command the respect of the people around them, direct reports and superiors.

Assertiveness can often be mistaken for dominance or aggression, but the definition of assertive is actual confidence.

Assertive (adj) Someone behaves confidently and is not frightened to say what they want or believe.

The key difference between assertiveness and aggression is the constructiveness of the action. If there is resentment or manipulation for personal agenda, that is when a manager crosses into aggression instead of assertiveness. Avoid this!

When a manager is assertive, everyone knows what is expected of them and understands the consequences of failing to perform. Your team will be able to identify and appreciate what you stand for; they can trust that you will speak your mind, assessing problems against your own and your company’s values.

The value of a manager who is assertive is that everyone recognises what they should be delivering and what they will get in return.

Here are my top tips on how to be an assertive leader in your organisation:

  1. Communication – An assertive manner will know and communicate with everyone, not just those that are loud or boisterous, or whose personalities they like or get along with, but everyone they are responsible for. Make sure communication is clear and unambiguous, as well as your expectations.
  2. Judgement – Reserve reactions and judgements to situations, including those that become heated for when you have taken the time to assess your response. Your response should be clear and in line with your values and it will not be a rash reaction to emotion.
  3. Adhere to your value structure – An assertive manager will adhere to what they believe and radiate their authenticity. In any given situation, your people will have a good idea on how you will react, because your value set has been clear and your actions reflective of them.
  4. Give feedback – Always give positive and negative feedback clearly and regularly so that it is clear and constructive.
  5. Build relationships and maintain them – An assertive leader will build and maintain strong relationships internally and externally and know how to exert influence without aggression.

Employees are happier, more comfortable, and more productive when they feel like they know their leaders, and that their leaders have the best interests of all of their stakeholders at heart. This is achieved when leaders act as their true selves at work, and you can learn all about how to do this at our upcoming Authentic Leadership Summit from 17-20 March. Tickets are available here.

Key Learnings From ‘Dare to Lead’ by Brené Brown

Formal learning is important but in the crush of everyday life, it can sometimes be too time consuming to undertake it. There’s also the fact that some real and important lessons are not classroom fodder, but more experience told in a real-world manner.

To continually keep on top of business trends, I try to read one business/leadership orientated book a month. I love business books because I can fit them in around my other tasks, thanks to the Kindle App (or apple books or whatever you prefer) and Audible. I don’t have to make time for them, I just make them part of my commute, or cooking prep or walking the dog. Those people who say they don’t have time to read aren’t being creative enough.

I have a bunch of favourite books on business and leadership, but one of my all-time favourites is ‘Dare to Lead’ by Brené Brown. It’s a book about leadership – the ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures.

Daring leadership is a collection of four skill sets that are 100% teachable. It’s learning and practice that requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with our whole hearts. I’m the first one to say that this all sounds a bit soft and fluffy, but it’s actually quite confronting and difficult to do all of the above and I’ve found in my workplace, 100% worth the effort.

We are not robots for whom emotion exists outside of work, we feel and experience those feelings whether we’re at work or not. Recognising, acknowledging and working through them leads to better trust, accountability and work culture.

Here are the most important learnings I took from ‘Dare to Lead’:

  • A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.
  • Square squad – if they’re not on my square, they are not in the arena and therefore their opinion of me does not matter.
  • Clear is kind – difficult or awkward conversations are less difficult if you approach them with empathy and kindness. Be clear on what outcomes you expect and what delivery looks like.
  • Vulnerability is not a weakness although it feels scary and confronting – letting people know that you have feelings and fears like everyone else can be powerful and relatable. Instead of others viewing you as weak, they can see you as more human, approachable and accepting or them, their ideas and backgrounds. When people feel truly accepted for who they are, they can give you their all.
  • What does support look like? A simple question that takes away any preconceived notion that you have of what providing a supportive environment is and actually asks the person, “what do you need from me to be your best?”
  • If you assume everyone is doing their best, you can avoid feeling disappointed or let down by another’s behaviour – the standard might not be the one you set, but it is the best that person can do at that time. You can work with them to improve it or help them move on but either way – it’s not about you and it wasn’t personal.

‘Dare to Lead’ is all about authenticity leadership – and if you’re looking to fine tune your leadership skills and learn how to create a culture of high-performance and authenticity, while developing a habit of continuous learning as a leader, it may be worthwhile checking out our upcoming Authentic Leadership Summit 2020.

Taking place on 17-20 March, Australia’s top CEOs and MDs will help you develop your leadership through authenticity, openness, and trust. Tickets for this highly anticipated summit are available here.

5 ways to be an authentic leader

In 2020, authentic leadership is more important than ever before – people can smell bullsh*t a mile away and they’re adverse to it.

Employees and customers are gravitating towards companies and leaders with a clear sense of purpose and direction. So it’s time to stop whatever it is you’re doing right now! We’re going to explain exactly why you need to pay attention to authenticity for the future success of your business, and how you can be an authentic leader.

The concept of authentic leadership has huge benefits for business – it boosts organisational performance by 40%, improves reputation and social license and secures the long-term viability of your enterprise. Everyone wants all of this, right? Well, there’s more…

Employees are happier, more comfortable, and more productive when they feel like they know their leaders, and that their leaders have the best interests of all of their stakeholders at heart.

True authentic leadership is when leaders act as their true selves at work and they have a shared purpose with their organisation and its people. Authentic leaders allow themselves to connect with their employees and have the long-term goals of their organisation as a guiding principle.

‘Fake it until you make it’ works because you employ it for a short time, but at some point, you need to genuinely be who you are.

My top 5 ways to be an authentic leader in your business:

    • Know your strengths – If you know what you’re good at, you can work to hone them to be better at what comes naturally to you. For your weaknesses, you can strive to improve them and have someone back you up on that. For example, if you’re not a great negotiator, you can bring a team member who is great to your negotiation sessions, while working on your own skills. This doesn’t get you out of difficult conversations because you’re not good at them. No one likes it and you can’t use this as an excuse!
    • Be clear about who you are – Communicate your beliefs and what you stand for, let people opt in and out of your leadership as they inevitably will if there’s a clash in belief or style. People want to follow someone who they believe in.
    • Trust and loyalty are key – Authenticity builds trust and trust builds organisational and customer loyalty. Just like any relationship outside of the workplace, without trust and loyalty, you don’t have anything. So these are essential ingredients for workplace relationships and are important for authentic leadership.
    • Know your values – You can’t authentically be a leader if you don’t know what you stand for – if you know your values, you know the standards you will hold people to and you can back those standards with a clear why.

Are you looking to evolve your leadership skills and understand how to implement the concept of authentic leadership in your business?

We have assembled inspiring luminaries alongside Australia’s top CEOs and MDs to help you develop your leadership through authenticity, openness, and trust. Back for its fifth year on 17-20 March, the Authentic Leadership Summit 2020 is not to be missed. Tickets are selling fast, get yours here.

Transform Your Company Culture with Authentic Leadership

Transform Your Culture with Authentic Leadership

Back for its fifth year, the Authentic Leadership Summit 2020 presents an exceptional speaker lineup composed of inspiring luminaries in government, media, business and the arts, to talk about transformative leadership through authenticity, openness, and trust.


The summit is a carefully curated 4-day program focusing on the core tenets of Authentic Leadership and how you can employ its principles in your organisation, drive outstanding business outcomes and make our world a better place at the same time.


Check out the profiles and content of the impressive headliners speaking at this year’s Authentic Leadership Summit —


Authentic Leadership Summit Speaker - Ita Buttrose


Ita Buttrose is a truly exceptional Australian: a legendary media trailblazer, businesswoman, best-selling author, committed community and welfare contributor and former Australian of the Year. In 2019 Ita became a Companion of the Order of Australia for her service to the community through leadership in the media, the arts, the health sector and as a role model.


Ita is currently Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. She balances this high-profile role with charitable responsibilities with organisations Dementia Australia, Macular Disease Foundation, Arthritis Australia and Breast Cancer Network Australia. Ita was also the founding editor of Cleo, the youngest ever editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly, the first woman to ever edit a major metropolitan newspaper in Australia as Editor-in-Chief of the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, and the first female director of News Ltd Australia.


Authentic Leadership Summit Speaker - Roger Eaton

While authenticity is instinctive for some leaders, for most it requires a deep understanding of one’s own strengths and weaknesses to make the leap. It is a combination of personal security, humility, transparency and most of all a servant leader mindset.


Fundamentally, it has to backed with strong knowledge, a high-performance ethos and a determination to get the team to the line regardless of self. KFC is built on a rock-solid culture and the strength of its brand to carry the same energy and ethos to its globally-reaching touchpoints.


As former CEO of the global business, Roger Eaton joins us to explain how authentic leadership drove the organisation from strength to strength, and most importantly examine the successes, challenges and lessons they learned along the way.


Authentic Leadership Summit Speaker - Mark Zusak


International bestselling author Markus Zusak’s haunting novel The Book Thief spent over 500 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list after its publication in 2006, with a movie adaptation released in November 2013.


His newest bestseller, Bridge of Clay, did not come about easily. Like any great leader, a great artist knows that failure is an essential aspect of progress and achievement, signaling a challenge worth pursuing or at least teaching you a lesson in the process. As Markus says: “Failure has been my best friend as a writer. It tests you, to see if you have what it takes to see it through.”


Join Markus for a rare insight into his creative process, particularly his thoughts on failure, and the universal insights that we can derive from it.


Authentic Leadership Summit Speaker - Katrina Troughton


In July 2019 Katrina Troughton became the first woman to be appointed as Managing Director of IBM ANZ, following a 28-year career at the company in local, regional and global roles. Katrina has never worked for another company, having started as a graduate trainee in New Zealand in 1990, and working her way up to the top job in A/NZ after a globetrotting career with the business.


The modus operandi that has driven her rise is a refusal to get bored in a role, and to actively seek and accept new challenges that have come her way. Her session will focus on how all leaders need to say yes to opportunities for growth, even when they may be outside your comfort zone.


Authentic Leadership Summit Speaker - Karen Lawson


Karen is an award-winning business executive and leader in the digital and startup industry. As the former CEO of Slingshot, she grew the business into the #1 corporate accelerator in Australia. Prior to her role at Slingshot, Karen served as CEO of CareerOne, and served as the General Manager at Yahoo!7.


If you’ve ever worked for a successful start-up, you’d know that it involves wearing many hats and fast-paced growth. Therefore, ensuring your people are supported, coached and equipped to thrive is an essential aspect of success. Karen joins us to tell you how you can deliver great results by helping others reach their true potential.


Authentic Leadership Summit Speaker - Tom Rogers


Tom Rogers has been a leader and an advocate for leadership education his entire career. Having graduated as an officer from the Royal Military College (RMC) Duntroon in 1983 he went on to serve the Australian Defence Force Academy as Senior Instructor in Leadership at RMC Duntroon, Commander of a United Nations observer mission on the Golan Heights, and Executive Director at the Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM delivering highly respected executive development programs for leaders and future leaders of Australasian police.


In December 2014 Tom was appointed the Australian Electoral Commissioner, and having recently been appointed for another five-year term, continues to lead the organisation to deliver the Australian citizen’s right to vote.

Our key resource speakers have achieved new levels of success by being their true selves at work and having a shared purpose with their organisation and its people.

Sign up for The Authentic Leadership Summit and learn how you too can support, engage and empower your teams to succeed.

Authentic Leadership Summit 2020 - March 17 to 20

How to Behave Authentically as a Leader

Learn the difference between your honest and your authentic self, improve your leadership style and inspire the best in others 


What is authenticity? Who has it? And why is it such a desirable quality in leadership 


Authenticity is the secret sauce to influencing others.  


Often associated with being true to oneself, authenticity is actually less about honest self-expression and more about presenting the best version of yourself in relation to others.  


To illustrate the difference between your honest and your authentic self, let’s run a typical work scenario – One of your peers rudely interrupts you with a dumb comment during an important meeting. How would you respond and regain control?  


How Not To Be Authentic - Rude Response


You’ve expressed your irritation and shot down the commenter with a quick burn. This is you at your most honest. But is it really the best way to respond? By snapping back, you signal threat and aggression. You’re also warning the rest of the team to keep their mouths shut if they know what’s good for them. 


How Not to be Authentic - Polite but Fake Response


This is worse than rude honesty. You are not doing yourself and your team any favors by tolerating or ignoring rude behavior.  


Authentic Response

Ask questions calmly and listen for the answers.


Confronting and challenging rude interrupters to a dialogue lets you speak your mind without sounding aggressive. It appeals to your better nature and teaches others, by example, to be respectful and thoughtful with their speech.  


It is important to realise that authenticity is a social skill.

In leadership, authenticity equates 
with being self-aware in social situations in order to effect positive interactions. To sum it up, a person is regarded as authentic in the truthful expression of their character while cultivating healthy relationships.  


Sign up for the Authentic Leadership Summit to discover your authentic self and become the leader that inspires teams to perform at their very best. 


Authentic Leadership Summit 2020 - March 17 to 20



3 Ways Authentic Leaders Win the Talent Game

Authentic leaders enjoy a reputation for being effective people managers – able to engage a fiercely loyal and talented team to drive exceptional results


In today’s talent-driven economy, where there are fewer skilled talents than jobs, candidates are looking for intangibles like “real” leadership aside from top-of-market salaries and benefits.  


What does it take to be a “real” leader and why does it matter in hiring and retaining talent? 


“Real” or authentic leadership demands sincerity, genuine support and integrity. Top candidates are looking for these attributes in their would-be bosses – leaders whom they believe will value them and invest in their future success.  


3 Ways Authentic Leaders Win the Talent Game 


1. They attract and retain the right people 

Many leaders underestimate the cost of employee turnover. If things don’t work out, they immediately fire and hire another. 

Consider this  – each lost employee can conservatively cost a company 33% on average of the employee’s base pay.  To put it another way, for every three people who leave the company for the same expense, would cost an additional full-time employee. (Source: Work Institute 2018 Retention Report)

Authentic leaders understand that every team member brings something special to the organisation and aren’t merely a set of skills with a price tag. They make sure to engage each employee for the long term by developing and realising potential.


2. They understand human motivation 

Today’s workforce is motivated by meaning and connection – what can they can get out of working for your organisation beyond salaries and benefits? Any company can offer that. What makes you any different?   

Authentic leaders nurture talent by creating a culture of belonging and recognition.  They spark their employees’ ambitions and match them with opportunities in the organisation.


3. They inspire people to become powerful advocates for the company 

According to a study by the Edelman Trust Barometer, an employee advocating for the company is twice more likely to be trusted than the CEO. Additionally, 70% of respondents trust the personal posts of co-workers, friends and family compared to only 15% who trust the posted messages from the official company account. 

Imagine the power of a story – an employee sharing an uplifting and inspiring work experience. Authentic leaders ignite a passion within the employee to amplify the message on behalf of the company. 


Sign up for the Authentic Leadership Summit 2020 to attract and retain top talent by leading with purpose, meaning and passion. 


Authentic Leadership Summit 2020 - March 17 to 20

The 5-Step Process to Defining Authentic Leadership

5 Step Process to Defining Authentic Leadership

Learn the Process to Defining and Understanding your Potential for Becoming an Authentic Leader and Inspire Meaningful Success 


We first heard the term “authentic leadership” as a management concept back in 2003 when author Bill George challenged corporate America to lead authentically in his book – Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. 

He pointed out that “authentic leaders of mission-driven companies will create far greater shareholder value than financially oriented companies.” It was in the wake of the 2001 Enron corporate scandal and the world was generally distrustful of big business. 

The book was an urgent call for a new kind of leader – the authentic business leader. 


Defining the Authentic Leader 

Over the years, readers of the book, notably c-suite executives, have acknowledged the need for authentic leaders and wanted to become one themselves. 

So, what does it take to become an authentic leader? 

An authentic leader must stake personal integrity and responsibility in the pursuit of meaningful and lasting success. 

According to Bill George, authentic leaders are driven by a moral and ethical purpose and never lose sight of their core values and principles. They lead with their hearts, cultivate long-term relationships and demonstrate excellence through self-discipline. 

To further illustrate the elements that define authentic leadership, let’s contrast them with traditional leadership traits. 


Traditional vs Authentic Leadership


You do not have to be naturally gifted with leadership traits, or be at the top of your organisation to become an authentic leader. You do not have to ask for permission or wait to be discovered. You only need to be responsible for your self-improvement.  

Authentic leadership demands that you aim to be a force for good by learning to be your best self. To be an authentic leader then is an attainable ideal – everyone has the potential to become one by committing to “learn-by-doing” 

Begin to carve your path to leading authentically by reflecting on these questions –  


Infographic - The 5 Step Process to Defining Authentic Leadership


Australia’s most trusted leaders are coming together for the Authentic Leadership Summit in Sydney on March 26. Join them and learn how you can discover your ‘why’ – your true purpose and values as a leader. Reserve your spot today. 


Authentic Leadership Summit 2020 - March 17 to 20


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Finding your purpose and how to nail it

A new decade brings reflection and new optimism for living authentically, making a real difference in this world, and discovering real purpose.

There’s something special about a new year (and especially a new decade) that inspires people to take action – all in the name of purpose, and I’m all for it, provided there is a solid action plan to make it happen and it’s sustainable, not a momentary burst of enthusiasm.

What many people don’t know is that your purpose is fundamentally linked with values – you can’t truly know your purpose unless you define your values. By knowing your values, you’ll know what makes you truly excited and fulfilled at the end of the day. It makes you prioritise what is ‘important’, rather than just what is ‘urgent’.

Your purpose may be as simple as living and belonging with people who share those values, or it could be driving those values into others or the world.

You may have varying levels of a whole bunch of values, but what are your top values? Think about it, what values drive you to be the best version of yourself and the best leader for your business? What values do you try to instil in your children, or your team? What values make you jump out of bed in the morning, ready to kick goals and take on a new challenge?

This is about you as a human being and what matters most to you. Don’t get me wrong, the process to work out your values does take some time and may not happen overnight, it’s not easy! But don’t worry, it’s totally worth it. Once you know your values, everything will make more sense, and you’ll be able to nail your purpose!

So how do you define your values? Over the years, I have created some really great exercises to define your values:

  • Get a list of value driven words (there are plenty if you Google!) and circle the ones that you think define you
  • Think about a great experience where your actions were great, and it made you really proud – why did it make you proud?
  • Next, think of an experience where the situation was terrible and you or the other person acted poorly – what would you have liked them to do, or what could you have done better?
  • Think about those two situations in relation to the list. If they’re important enough for you, the words that define what matters to you most should be clearer. Trust me, it’s hard to define to two, but try it!

If you already know what you’re about and can put those values into the context of what you do and how you do it, every action should be held against those values. Does this fit into what I value and believe, and is my action living up to that? It makes difficult choices easier, and it takes away that malalignment with things that make you feel uneasy.

On the flip side, if your job does not align with these values – get another one. I have worked in an organisation that went against my values, but it paid handsomely, and it is my life’s biggest regret.

If you’re looking to discover your ‘why’ – your true purpose and values as a leader, join us for the upcoming Authentic Leadership Summit in Sydney from the 17-20 March 2020. Back for its 5th year, keynote speakers include, Ita Buttrose, Larry Marshall, Tim Kelsey and Mike Baird to name a few. Early bird pricing is available only until the 14th February 2020 – book now.

Bad management and how to stop it

Stopping bad management ruining businesses and stagnating people’s careers is something that I’m really passionate about. When it comes to bad management, it isn’t just about intimidation or belittling, deliberately setting unachievable targets or projecting the stereotypical “horrible bosses” behaviour. It can be as simple as leaving staff wondering what their goals are, resulting in them not being able to achieve them, or a dereliction of duty because it’s too hard or too confronting.

In 2020, I’m challenging CEOs, CFOs, CMOs and everything in between, no matter what the size of the business or organisation, to stop bad management and to have the tough conversations that turn managers into leaders.

I’ve worked in small, medium and large organisations in the education sector and have been fortunate enough to meet hundreds of managers from some of the largest organisations in the country to start-up business owners trying to find their way. Some of the key things I have learnt along the way include:

  • Communication is key – people have to know what to expect and how they are to deliver on those expectations
  • It’s recognition – staff should know when they have done a good job and have shown the right commitment
  • It’s providing an environment of psychological safety, of allowing people to ask the hard questions and not being afraid of addressing concerns
  • It’s leading by example and modelling the behaviour you want others to emulate and being brave enough to call out behaviour that is not OK
  • It’s making values and standards clear and visible and recognising behaviour the exemplifies those values and standards because allowing poor behaviour to continue says clearly to other staff that that behaviour is OK, but it also says to them you don’t care enough about them or the company to stop it

So, my question to you is – how will you change your management style in 2020?

If you’re looking for ways to enhance your management style, join us for the upcoming Authentic Leadership Summit being held in Sydney from the 17-20 March 2020. Back for its 5th year, keynote speakers include, Ita Buttrose, Larry Marshall, Tim Kelsey and Mike Baird to name a few. Early bird pricing is available in until the 14th February 2020 – book here.

The Leadership Qualities That Matter

The Leadership Qualities That Matter

Our conversations with the country’s top CEOs and MDs suggest essential leadership traits for organisational success 

In the months leading up to our Executive Leadership Summit, we asked our speakers “what are the essential qualities that leaders should possess?”

Their answers ranged from characteristics and traits that they already have in their tool kit to qualities that they aim to cultivate in themselves and others within their teams.

A total of 20 speakers participated in the interview – all front-line CEOs and MDs from businesses of all shapes and sizes.

In summarising their responses, a list comprising of 10 leadership qualities were identified. The top 3 on the list suggest that these are essential to organisational success regardless of their size or industry.


The executives who participated in the interview have identified ‘communication’ as the most critical skill to have in your leadership tool kit. They emphasised the ability to articulate the company’s goals and vision, educate and inform as foundations to developing healthy relationships. They also underlined ‘active listening’ as the key component to communicating powerfully.

Other abilities related to communication were mentioned including – inspiring and motivating others, collaborating and promoting teamwork.


Closely tied at the top of the list is ‘authenticity’ which the participating executives defined as “leading in a manner that is true to oneself.” Authenticity has also been identified as critical to leadership success in terms of honest and transparent engagement with employees, partners and customers. Integrity, social and ethical responsibility were also mentioned as related characteristics to leading with authenticity.


Finally, our participants rank “courage” on the 3rd spot as a defining quality of good leadership, adding “the ability to confront risk and uncertainty is a quality that distinguishes great leaders from competent managers.” The ability for bold and decisive action, going against the norm, starting revolutionary change to inspire and energise the team are some of the qualities mentioned that define courageous leadership.

The Bottom-line

Different business situations demand different leadership styles. However, the interview responses of this small group of leaders all seem to point to common leadership qualities that remain relevant and essential in today’s business.

So, what’s the takeaway message in this? While this was a small, informal study, what we can take away is the need to focus on these core qualities when developing future business leaders.

Learn the leadership skills and qualities that drive performance of the country’s top executives. Sign up for The Authentic Leadership Summit 2020. 

Authentic Leadership Summit 2020 - March 17 to 20