Inspirational Leadership Requires Personal Authenticity

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

People are like those websites that ask you to read squiggly letters and type what you read into the little box. Have you seen those? It’s a security measure: the website wants to make sure you’re human, and not a software program or a robot. Evidently robot software programs can’t read squiggly letters, so if you can type the right letters into the little box, you must be human.

Yeah. People are just like that. They want to know that you’re human. Especially in business and in relationships, folks don’t want to “talk” to software robots… at least, they won’t say much about what’s really going on inside them. Not to a robot. If you don’t believe me, think back to the last time you “interacted” with an “automated system” on the phone, to check your bank balance, to confirm arrival time of a flight, whatever. Did you have a meaningful chat with that robot? Or did you put forth only the minimal amount of information that would complete the transaction and allow you to end the call?

People are like that.

Are you treating people with human authenticity? Are you human? Or are you guilty, as many of us sometimes are, of behaving like a robot?

Over the years, many of my coaching clients have been super-smart consultants who could think and compute so quickly and efficiently they could easily be confused for machines. However, this was not an atttribute that would lead them to success in connecting with other people. Some would conduct every discussion as if they were merely “downloading” their clients; they’d ask question after question, never react to the answers, never offer any of their own opinions or feelings, and never show any empathy. Needless to say, they struggled when it came time to do one of the most important things in their work – to influence people. And inspiring others was out of the question. People are not inspired by software robots, however fast and smart those robots may be.

People are like that.

When I observed interactions between consultants and clients, I noticed that the client always seemed to clam-up tight when the consultant behaved in that way. It was as if they were telling the consultant, “Look, I am putting out all kinds of signals here. They may seem like irrelevant, squiggly-looking letters to you, but to me, they are a security measure. If you want to influence me, or inspire me, or enlist me into your followership… you better be able to read my squiggly letters and respond like a human!”

One such conversation was particularly illustrative, if not sadly entertaining. The consultant was firing rapid questions at a client, trying to get the client to give him data he could use to “crunch the numbers” on a business cost problem. At one point the consultant asked yet another question – “And what is your typical inventory turnover?” – and the client responded with some major squiggly lines. “Well, I was tracking those inventory numbers closely until a few months ago, when my mother died, and I had to take a lot of time off work. I kinda lost track of it.” “I see,” said the consultant. “So when do you think you could have those numbers for me?” Needless to say, the client wasn’t very forthcoming after that.

People are like that.

If you want to be an inspiring leader, showing some sort of personal connection – some authentic empathy – is the very first step. Your counterpart needs to know you’re human. So check yourself out, and make sure you’re conducting your business like a human.

Try this experiment: sometime today, and each day for the next week, have a conversation with another and make sure your entire job is to show them some human response. Here are the steps: Ask them a question about how they feel, not just what they know. Listen carefully to the answer. Then react to it, with something like “Wow, that must be tough for you, you must feel a little anxious about it” or “Cool, I can tell how excited you are about that.” And if you want extra credit, briefly tell them how what they just shared with you relates to something you are feeling, such as “That reminds me of my first sales call – man, was I scared – but it ended up great.”

If you catch yourself acting like a robot, you may not be able to cure yourself overnight. But if you mix in at least some authentic conversations with each key person, and especially if you can put at least one or two such moments into every conversation, people will start to trust you more, like you more, maybe even be inspired more by you.

People are like that.



Michael Hume is a speaker, writer, and consultant specializing in helping people maximize their potential and enjoy inspiring lives. As part of his inspirational leadership mission, he coaches executives and leaders in growing their personal sense of well-being through wealth creation and management, along with personal vitality.

Those with an entrepreneurial spirit who want to make money “one less thing to worry about” can learn more about working with Michael at

Anyone wanting to jump-start their vitality can browse through the best (and most travel-friendly) nutraceuticals on the market at

Michael and his wife, Kathryn, divide their time between homes in California and Colorado. They are very proud of their offspring, who grew up to include a homemaker, a rock star, a service talent, and a television expert. Two grandchildren also warm their hearts! Visit Michael’s web site at