Leadership Speaker For High Performers | Top C-Suite Speaker

Leadership speaker, Duncan Stevens believes that: “Great leadership is never about the leader. It’s about everyone whose lives we touch”.

79% of employees will quit after receiving inadequate appreciation from their managers.

69% of millennials are concerned that their workplace does not develop their leadership skills.

In business, 83% of companies say that developing leaders is crucial.

Duncan Stevens is a professional leadership speaker who has studied behavioural psychology and what it means to be a high performing leader for the past decade. Alongside this, he has worked with, for, and alongside some of the highest performing teams around the world. As a result he has an incredibly deep understanding of what it means to lead with the highest levels of impact and efficacy. 

His keynotes expertly blend insights, entertainment, inspiration and education as well as practical, tangible, easy-to-apply strategies to elevate your leadership abilities which are being used by the highest performing individuals and teams in the world today. Alongside this, his insights and strategies are supported by behavioural psychology so you can be confident that the strategies Duncan share work in the real world and on a psychological level.

Having spent 4 years as an Officer in the British Royal Navy, lead his own successful start ups, held senior leadership roles in organisations and with a passion for helping others cultivate a mind-set for success you can be assured you and your leadership team will leave feeling inspired and ready to take action on your new skills set without compromising your values when you hire Duncan to speak on the topic of high performance leadership.

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Some leaders look for compliance in their business. However, the opposite of compliance is commitment which comes from influencers and leaders asking themselves “How does what I’m asking this person to do align with their needs, goals, wants and desires?”

By leading with care and empathy for your employees and applying Duncan’s Effective Influence Model you can be assured your team will be both more effective and more committed.

This will result in a more loyal and committed work force with lower staff turnover rates and more open to leadership influence. If they are more open to influence, we can inspire them. If we can inspire them more, they will serve our customers better, retain them for longer and generate more service, higher reviews and repeat business as a result.

As a leadership speaker, Duncan uses his One Question Leadership Model to demystify and decode the techniques that are used by the world’s premier business leaders to accelerate their influence abilities and build relationships.

Duncan shares with you small practical, costless principles that will allow you to lead, sell, market and create long-term client relationships much more effectively where the client and your team will feel that they are respected and are cared for. In turn, this will build loyalty, emotional engagement, and buy-in, all of which will lead to significantly more effective results.

Duncan’s Effective Influence Model will give you the tools and techniques to take your influencing skills to the next level, and ensure that you can influence your team and generate genuine buy-in to new ideas more effectively, every single time.”

Frequently Asked Questions:

Each leadership speaker has different content in his or her presentation so the top leadership speaker is only applicable to the outcomes that they can provide the audience. Duncan tailors his leadership speaker presentation to the audience using his acclaimed One Question Leadership Model to help leaders lead with more impact and efficacy.

A leadership speaker is a generic term given to a professional keynote speaker who inspires, educates and entertains leaders at organisations at conferences and events. Leadership speakers often have a background in leadership and offer new perspectives to present new opportunities to established leaders and executives.

The rates and cost of leadership speakers vary dependent on the experience and credentials of the speaker. The length of the presentation required also needs to be factored too. Get in touch with Duncan to check his availability and costs.

If you are reading this and looking for a “Leadership speaker” you are probably questioning what a speaker can bring to the table or what insights, they can share. Perhaps with that in mind, I think it’s important to ask yourself whether you are a manager or a leader. If you’re a manager, it’s worth considering “Are you actually a leader?” because there are two significant differences between a manager and a leader. A manager is somebody who copes. To manage is to cope. You don’t get up in the morning and tell your other half that you’re off to work to manage. You don’t tell them that you’re off the firefight the day. It’s far broader than that. You are off to work to lead your team. As a leader isit incumbent upon you to give direction. One of your roles as a leader is to lead people towards yours or the organization’s vision.

As a leadership speaker, I always ask people if they’ve got an aim as a leader, and so often I met with blank faces. For me, the aim of a leader should be to create self-managing teams, to leave you to give that leadership direction and help navigate change. So, if that’s the aim of a leader, the next question is: “What is leadership?”

Now, if as a leadership speaker, I was to ask an audience of 1,000 people or a conference as small as 10 delegates or senior leaders, they’d all have a different definition of what leadership is. For me, leadership is taking the person to the right of you, and the person to the left of you, and putting them on a path with a purpose far greater than the paycheck. In fact, it’s leading behind to make sure everybody makes it to the end. So what exactly is this direction that is being spoken about? What is this North Star that guides the path that your team walk and you lead them to walk?

Well, this is the vision, the mission the direction of the company. This is the direction which unites everyone together and is the glue which means that employees support one another when times are tough and celebrate with one another when times are great.

When I am sharing my keynote presentation as a leadership speaker, I always say: “A leader, without a vision is like a compass without a needle.”

We know we’re going somewhere, but we’re not quite sure where. I think the importance of leadership, and specifically a vision was perfectly epitomized by JFK in 1962, when he outlined his vision of putting a man on the moon, quite literally, a moonshot. And if you’ve listened to his speech where he laid out his vision or read it, you’ll hear or read that it’s very low in logic, but very high in inspiration. 

In fact, he mobilized a whole nation behind his vision through his inspirational words. And it wasn’t just about putting a man on the moon, he was looking to create something far greater than the action of ‘doing’. He wanted to advance science and technology. People were caught up in the hysteria so much so, that they were prepared to pay higher taxes to support his course and his vision. We all know the story. Seven years later, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Had it not been for him setting out his vision, and inspiring people to get behind it there may never have been the advancement of science and technology, and we may not be in the place that we are now.

So the next question I suppose we need to answer is: Why is leadership so important? Well, as leaders, we need to give that vision and direction to our team. We need to be the people who are the agents of change, and make decisions and decisive about those decisions.

In fact, many leaders consider their primary focus being to increase their EBITDA figure, or lead the company into profitability, which is absolutely, right. However, it would be remiss to ignore 3 other potential bottom lines. In fact, I would argue there are actually three bottom lines. The first is; we need to be positioning ourselves as an employer of choice. Nowadays, there’s more and more potential options, for employees or potential candidates to choose from. People want to feel part of a team or part of a work-family, and they want to come to work for something far greater than the paycheck. They want to be part of something that forms their purpose in life and be part of a bigger mission. Young people especially, want to feel part of this bigger cause. So, as high performing leaders, we need to position ourselves and our organization as the employer of choice.

Secondly, we need to position ourselves as an investment of choice in order to secure funding to help us grow. We need to be able to demonstrate long term growth potential. That’s the only way that we can attract and secure investment from others, which in turn will help us grow.

Finally, we need to position ourselves as the provider of choice.  Company’s, businesses and organizations are jostling more and more to fight over a finite number of customers, as the marketplace becomes more and more saturated. So, as leaders we need to ensure that we are delivering the highest levels of customer service and we are delivering the highest quality of product at the most competitive prices. We need to be asking ourselves if we are positioning ourselves as a provider of choice for not only future customers, but retaining the customers that we have, and ensuring that they become raving fans. Because if we’re not, that is something we need to consider and indeed, re-consider and challenge our team with.

As a leadership speaker, I could speak a lot about many different techniques and strategies and principles and ideas that I have created myself or combine ideas from other high performing leaders to help elevate our leadership abilities and potential effectiveness. However, for the sake of keeping this brief, I want to just touch on a few of them.

To understand more about the strategies that I’ve drawn on from the most successful teams and leaders in the world and some of my own psychological research and working with high performing organizations as a professional leadership speaker, you’re more than welcome to get in touch for consultation or to hire me to speak at your event. However, I think one of the most important attributes of a leader is a humbleness to recognize, appreciate and encourage your team. Of these 3 elements recognition is perhaps the most important trait. The benefits that you get out of a more focused and productive working group of employees and engagement levels far outweigh the arrogance that some leaders show through not recognizing their teams and fellow leaders.


There was a study conducted by one of my colleagues called Dan Ariely, in which a group of participants were issued a test in which they were given a sheet of paper which would feature a mixture of random letters. What the participants would have to do is search for a series of pair letters, circle the pair letters and then take it up to the experimenter. The experimenter would then ask them if they wanted to continue with a test. If they agreed, they would give them another sheet with some more mixed letters then give them a small amount of money for each time they came back with their sheet. They would get slightly less pay each time they handed in their test to the experiment, but cumulatively those that work the hardest and the longest, would essentially earn the most money.

The participants were split into three groups. The first set of participants would have to write their name on the front of the paper, circle the pair letters and then take it up to the experimenter. The experimenter would look at them in the eyes, look at the paper, identify their name, mark it off of their check sheet, ask them if they wanted another test, give them a payment for this one, and send them on the way, and they would repeat the process.

The second group didn’t have to write their name on the front and in fact, there was no opportunity for them to write their name in the front of the paper. Instead they simply circled the pair letters, took them up to the experimenter but this time the experimenter wouldn’t recognize them and wouldn’t look him in the eyes. There was no need to do so, because they didn’t have their names on the paper. Instead they would simply take the paper off of them, put it on a pile, and ask them if they wanted to take another test. They got paid for that test and were then sent on their way and they would repeat the process.

The final group, again, didn’t have to write their name on the front. They circled a series of pair letters, took it up to the experimenter where the experimenter, this time wouldn’t even recognize them, wouldn’t even look at them, wouldn’t even put it on a pile. They simply took the test off them and shredded it. If this last group was savvy, they could have created a kind of process in which they circle any letters on the paper (without checking their reliability of answers) give it to the experimenter, who would then shred it because they know that their work wasn’t being checked.

However, they still took it up and the experimenter would have give them their small amount of pay, and ask them if they wanted to continue. The results were staggering. If we look at the results in reverse, those participants who had their work shredded worked their way down from $1 to 30 cents. This means nothing, but it’s in the perspective of the other two, which makes this so important. Those who circled the pair words, but were simply ignored, worked their way down to just over 22.50 cents in the dollar. So these participants worked longer and harder than those who had their paper shredded. Those, however, who were acknowledged and wrote their names on the paper and were looked at in the eyes worked their way down to 15 cents in the dollar, which means they worked nearly twice as hard and twice as long as those participants who had their work shredded and were not recognized.

The importance of recognition within an organization is so powerful.

In my talks as a leadership speaker I share my story of great leadership through the eyes of other high performers to add really texture to my presentations. Perhaps one of the most successful Premier League managers of all time is that Alex Ferguson. During the 90s he managed a very strong Manchester United who went on to win the treble, and a number of other trophies. The team Alex Ferguson managed over this period is often regarded as one of the greatest teams of all time. He was recently interviewed at Harvard. When he asked how he motivated, inspired, rewarded and recognized his team he said that you just need to say two words. Say them as many times as you can, as often as you can, but as authentically as you can to those who deserve and those who would benefit. And those two words are simple. 

They are: Well and Done. 

Say “well done!”, as often as possible. As a result, Manchester United increased their stock price by billions. Not only that, but they scored over 150 last minute goals and they scored over 200 goals in the last 15 minutes. One of the reasons it could be argued is because they had a desire to work together as a team and their manager and their vision but more so than that they felt recognized, appreciated and encouraged. As a leadership speaker, I also share another example in my keynotes drawing from the CEO of Muller. Muller if you are not familiar produce yogurts cold rice pudding and chilled goods. The returning CEO was called Stuart Gilliland. 

When Gilliland was appointed CEO, he found that engagement rates were very low. He decided he was going to focus on recognition and reward. In the first six months of focusing on recognizing his employees, engagement rates went up to 19.7%. Within the year, they were up to 36%. The following year, 46%. And finally when he left, engagement rates were up to 64%. In the same year, Muller, sold more yogurt, produced more yogurt and had less wastage.

So as a leader, it’s important, and indeed essential to recognize and appreciate your employees.

As a leadership speaker, I often ask delegates and the leadership team if they have a list of all of their employees and next to them their dates of birth. Not many hands go up in the air. But how do you feel when somebody wishes you happy birthday? You feel amazing, right? Even though you know, they’ve probably just found your date of birth on Facebook. How do you feel when somebody remembers your name when they met you at a conference three years before? How do you feel then? You feel pretty special. Why? Because you feel recognized.

So often, in organizations or as leaders, we execute recognition incorrectly. What we often do, is we give out a bottle of bubbly or box of chocolates as a token of our appreciation or recognition. But what if Helen receives a bottle of wine or a bottle of bubbly, and she doesn’t drink alcohol? And what happens if Steve receives a box of chocolates, but he’s a diabetic? Far better, would be to let Helen leave a couple of hours early from work because she’s a single mom, and she never gets to pick up her children from school.

Although I am a leadership speaker, I also run a number of businesses. One of the organizations that I run is the influence Association. Often we use our email list to run a series of experiments. There’s one experiment that we ran where we invited people on the mailing list to answer a very simple question. If there was no financial incentive nor holiday incentive for reward and recognition, what would they appreciate most?

The answer to the point of 90%, was a handwritten note from the CEO. Now, I’m not suggesting that if you are a CEO of 20,000 employees, you hand write a letter to each of them but as we know through influence and persuasion, something personalized and something unexpected is an extremely powerful gift. First, we need to bring individuals together as teams and then teams together in organizations. To bring individuals together as teams, you could suggest that your leadership team write their letters to the employees in their charge. This will make them feel special and make them feel recognized, appreciated, and maybe they’ll score more goals, metaphorically speaking in the last 50 minutes, or even in the last minute, and work together to achieve combined success.

When I am hired as a leadership speaker in Dubai, America, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Singapore or other countries around the world I am often asked to help the leadership team have the confidence to empower their employees more.

As I mentioned earlier as leaders it is essential that we create teams that manage themselves to allow us to deliver the more strategic objectives of the organization and navigate change. We can do this through empowerment. Now, empowerment, much like the word motivation is thrown around like confetti a lot when I am speaking on leadership at conferences.

When other leadership speakers talk about empowerment, they say that we must empower our teams, but nobody really knows how to do it, or what to do. But as a leader, it takes confidence. It takes guts to give that trust to somebody else. I want to give you a technique to help you become more confident to empower your teams.

The most effective way to empower your teams, I believe is  through meetings. I’d encourage you to do something called “No Show, No Say”. As leaders, how often do we lurch from meetings to meetings breathlessly, but thinking that we don’t really need to be there? How many times do we not even attend those meetings, even though we’re supposed to? What happens at the back end of those meetings? Everybody in that meeting has had a discussion about a decision that needs to be made or problem that needs to be overcome and they make a decision. They look at all the strategy, they engage in debate and discussion. They consider all of the potential risks, and they make a decision, then it comes to your desperate final sign off and you say no.

How do they feel?

They question themselves: “What’s the point in us having these conversations?” “What’s the point in us having this meeting?” So, if you’re not going to give the people in that meeting the courtesy of your attendance, to hear the discussion and debate as to why they’ve come to that decision then decide now, if you’re not going to attend, you don’t have a say in the decision-making process and execution and empower your team to execute on the decision themselves.

If they execute the decision themselves, yes, it can be a scary thing for you to do. But part of your role as a leader is to mentor, lead and to guide. And if you do that, you can help them with any failings, any choices on the route to their decision. Not only does it improve your leadership abilities, if they fail, it doesn’t make them a failure. If they make a mistake, it doesn’t make them a mistake. But it puts them on the path to success when we can only truly learn to be successful.  Failure is the critical missing ingredient to success. In fact, as a leadership speaker, I would challenge my delegates that those who have wandered through life aimlessly never making mistakes potentially haven’t reached their full potential because they haven’t made the mistakes to learn from.

Other strategies to empower your team is by considering adopting a holacracy form of management structure. Zappos do a similar thing. For context, Zappos is an online retailer in which they’ve eliminated direct reporting lines in favor of having reporting circles or groups in which each group has their own accountabilities. What makes these groups or circles different is that they hold regular governance meetings, where each employee and attendee is requested to define their own roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities. 

The governance meetings bring the circles together to help everyone define the criteria in their job roles and define and shape their job descriptions, This helps everyone overcome challenges, problems by everyone working together to find solutions without once voice which is so often the leaders voice. This is a much more fluid approach to collaboration by eliminating typical or traditional management hierarchy. By eliminating the hierarchy, communication flows a lot freer, people feel more empowered, employees are more focused and the organization can work with a higher degree of agility.

The final insight that I want to share is that as a leader, we need to be conscious about gaining higher levels of understanding not only of our organization, but of our team. So, I want to give you four questions that you should be continually asking your employees. Let’s say you are a leader of a high performing organization, but how do you move from a good organization to great organization? 

The question we need to be constantly asking is: “Why do we do it this way?” The second question which sits alongside this first question is “How can we make it better?”  The third question in this trilogy is, “Who have we got to champion this?” When leading an organization, we should be constantly striving to be better not to be the best. The reason we should be striving to be better is because at some point better will outperform the best. We shouldn’t be striving for success; we should be striving for excellence. 

Success pits, us against everybody else, but excellence pits us, against ourselves.  So we need to be striving to be better and striving for excellence. To recap these three questions. The first question is “Why do we do it this way?” The second is “How can we make it better?” And then the important question to marry up alongside empowerment is “Who have we got to champion this?” Whenever I go into organizations, I look at the employees, and I change my perspective. I always see them as root balls. 

If you’re planting a tree with a root ball, you don’t plant it in a hole of the same size as the root ball. In fact, you dig a hole, two and a half times the size, put some loose soil in it, and really allow the roots to grow. If the roots can grow, and they have room to take hold, the tree will become bigger and stronger. And the same here, we need to be constantly asking; “Who have we got to champion this who can drive this change and lead us forward?”

One of the most powerful phrases a true leader can use is “I don’t know”. It takes humility, vulnerability, and humbleness to say; “I don’t know”. But by acknowledging that you don’t know frees you up to focus on the things that you are good at and you do know. So, allow the people who are skilled at those particular things to take ownership and leadership.

I promised you one more question. And that is this: “What would happen if what would happen if?” It’s a powerful question, you can ask your employees. Why? Because, to influence or persuade people to act differently, we need to talk to them in a way to get them to think and feel differently. And to encourage them to think and feel differently, we need to paint different pitches inside of their minds. We think in about 80 to 100 words per minute and as a result, to get people to think and feel differently one way we can do this is through gamification and should try and play a game with them. “Just imagine”. Or, the question I would encourage you to ask is: “What would happen if?” “What would happen if we had twice the space? What would happen if we had twice the number of employees? What would had happen if we had twice the marketing budget? 

People come together and think of we’re really creative solutions as to how to grow the business. But the magic comes even greater, harder and faster if you flip that questioning.  Instead as a leader you could be asking What would happen if we had half the marketing budget? What would happen if we had half the space or half the number of employees? Your team or  your fellow brainstormers will come up with some really creative ideas to help propel the business forward if they felt like they had part of the business trim, shaved or cut off.

As a professional leadership speaker I could talk a lot more about leadership but as  a starter, I think it’s important to remember that great leadership isn’t about command and control, but about caring about what the people you care about care about. And if you do genuinely care about what the people you care about care about and you put your employees on a path with a purpose far greater than the paycheck in fact, follow behind everyone will work harder, better and more effectively together, and also more collaboratively.