How to Lead Authentically in a Conversation

In the realms of business and personal interactions, the ability to lead a conversation authentically is an indispensable skill.

Whether you’re presenting to a potential investor, pitching an idea at work, or navigating a critical personal conversation, your authentic leadership can create a powerful and productive atmosphere. Here’s how to master this art.

But before we get into it, let’s look at some examples of what it’s like to not lead the conversation. At the of this blog, we’ll share the alternative scenario, and how to maintain leadership in the scenario shared. 

Examples of Not Leading the Conversation:

1. Meeting with an Investor:

Scenario: You’re seeking investment for your startup. The meeting starts, and instead of outlining the agenda, you let the investor take charge. They bombard you with questions, and you find yourself on the defensive, trying to catch up.

What it feels like: Overwhelmed, reactive instead of proactive, a sense that you’re losing control over the direction and outcome of the meeting.

2. Delivering a Presentation:

Scenario: You begin your presentation, and within minutes, a colleague interrupts with a question. Instead of addressing it and moving on, you let them steer the conversation. The presentation loses focus, and you’re left scrambling to cover your main points.

What it feels like: Frustration, anxiety about not delivering your intended message, feeling undercut or overshadowed.

3. Important Personal Conversation:

Scenario: You want to discuss relocating for a job with your partner. Instead of stating your feelings and reasons, you start by asking for their opinion. They express strong reluctance, setting a negative tone, and making it harder for you to share your perspective.

What it feels like: Feeling unheard, regret for not setting the stage better, potential resentment.

If these situations resonate with you, here are some practices you could consider to help you feel confident in conversations.

1. Help yourself to feel prepared

a) Take the time you need to be prepared: When facing an important meeting, carefully consider what you need to be fully prepared. Devise a plan that outlines necessary materials and anticipates potential questions. Determine what you require and allocate sufficient time to gather these resources. Crafting a personalized preparation strategy will bolster your confidence and enhance your capability to effectively lead the discussion.

b) Set Clear Objectives: What do you hope to achieve from the conversation? Outline clear, achievable goals. This not only gives the discussion direction but also helps you stay on track.

c) Anticipate Questions and Concerns: Think ahead about potential questions or concerns your audience might have. Preparing answers beforehand can prevent being caught off guard.

d) Rehearse: Practice makes perfect. Whether it’s your speech or the main talking points, rehearse to refine your delivery.

2. Initiating the Conversation: Setting the Right Tone

a) Open with Clarity: Start by clearly stating the purpose of the conversation. This sets the stage and gives everyone a clear understanding of what’s ahead.

b) Build a Connection: Share a personal story or experience that ties into the topic. This not only warms up the audience but also establishes a human connection.

c) Exude Confidence, Not Arrogance: Stand tall, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly. However, remember that there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The goal is to be assertive, not domineering.

3. Facilitating the Conversation: Balancing Authority with Openness

a) Active Listening: Authentic leaders recognize the value in listening. When someone else is speaking, give them your full attention. This not only shows respect but can also provide valuable insights.

b) Ask Open-ended Questions: Encourage participation by asking open-ended questions. This allows others to share their thoughts freely and can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the topic.

c) Acknowledge and Validate: Recognize the contributions of others. A simple “I understand where you’re coming from” or “That’s a valid point” can go a long way in fostering a collaborative atmosphere.

d) Guide the Conversation: While it’s essential to let others speak, remember to steer the conversation towards your objectives. If things veer off-topic, gently bring it back to the main agenda.

e) Manage Conflicts with Grace: Disagreements are natural. Address them calmly and constructively. Avoid getting defensive; instead, seek to understand the root of the conflict and work towards a resolution.

f) Summarize and Action: Towards the end, summarize the main points discussed. Outline the next steps or actions to be taken, ensuring everyone is aligned.

So, how could the scenarios shared at the beginning of this article been managed differently?

Examples of Facilitating as a Leader:

1. Meeting with an Investor:

Leading Approach: Begin by thanking them for their time, briefly outline the agenda, and highlight your company’s achievements and potential. If they interrupt with a question, answer it concisely and return to your main points.

Effect: The investor sees you as confident and in control. The meeting follows a structured path, with you guiding the narrative.

2. Delivering a Presentation:

Leading Approach: Start with a captivating hook to grab attention. If someone interrupts, address their question by saying, “That’s an excellent point, and I’ll be covering it in a few slides. If it’s okay, I’d like to proceed and address questions towards the end.”

Effect: You maintain the flow of your presentation while ensuring the audience that their concerns will be addressed.

3. Important Personal Conversation:

Leading Approach: Begin by expressing your feelings, “I’ve been offered a role in [city], and it’s a significant opportunity for me. I value our relationship deeply, so I want to discuss how we can navigate this together.”

Effect: By setting a collaborative tone, you ensure both parties feel valued and involved in the decision-making process.


Leading a conversation authentically is about striking the right balance between asserting oneself and allowing space for others. With preparation, a clear initiation, and skilled facilitation, you can navigate any conversation with power, authority, and genuine respect for those involved. Remember, it’s not about dominating the conversation but about guiding it towards a productive outcome while valuing every participant’s input.


Join our monthly newsletter to get updated on mentorship opportunities and actionable insights to learn and grow through relationships.

Follow OneUpOneDown on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram to stay tuned with the latest news.