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Best Public Speakers Series: Studying Kevin Sneader's Leadership Communication Skills

Updated: Aug 19

We chose Kevin Sneader for our "Best Public Speakers" list because of his extraordinary leadership communication skills. He is a captivating storyteller and brings a perfect balance of professional and casual to his interviews and conversations. Kevin was born in Canada and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. He joined McKinsey & Company upon graduating from the University of Glasgow. Kevin is a graduate of the Harvard Business School, and was the Chairman of McKinsey's Asia-Pacific Division from 2014-2018. In February 2018, he was appointed as McKinsey's global managing partner until July 2021.

Leader Communication

The best in leadership communication skills event we reviewed was from January 15, 2021. This interview was held remotely as a part of an ongoing fireside conversation series at Harvard University done by The Harvard Project for Asian & International Relations (HPAIR), which aims to democratize information by connecting the leaders of tomorrow with the leaders of today.


Kevin's greatest leadership communication skills:

  1. Professional Presence: This interview is done remotely, yet Kevin is dressed with a polished, structured look that matches his high level of professional seniority.

  2. Vocal Presence: While Kevin is not a highly dynamic speaker in terms of pitch and volume (appropriate for the casual remote setting), he does highlight words where he wants his audience to focus with pace, pause, and weight. This takes practice and is hard to accomplish, but goes far to demonstrate one's leadership communication skills.

  3. Storytelling: Kevin has strong storytelling capabilities. He keeps his stories, brief, and relevant to the topic of discussion. He also uses humor appropriately and successfully during his conversation.

  4. Experience: He brings a calm, sage energy to this conversation and manages to bridge his humble beginnings with his vast international career experience. He prides himself on successful problem-solving skills and improved performance for clients.

  5. Personality: The interviewer begins his conversation with Kevin by asking casual ice-breaking questions about Kevin's personal life. He embraces this and takes it as an opportunity to showcase his personality. This helps his interviewer and his listeners relate to him on a personal level.

  6. Message of Hope: This interview touches on the heavy challenges the world is currently experiencing. Kevin uses the final question at (46:50) to share an inspiring story giving hope for the futures of his listeners. "It is always darkest before the dawn... Better days are ahead..."

What Kevin could do to improve his leadership communication skills:

  1. We would like to see Kevin work to eliminate his occasional filler word use, "um, uh"...

  2. We would encourage Kevin to avoid the phrase, "Good question..." (2:54) as a stalling technique. It implies that other questions are not. It is better to say, "I am glad you asked..." if you need to buy a moment to gather thoughts before answering.

  3. To increase his vocal presence, we would ask Kevin to breathe more deeply to fuel his vocal strength even more. This would help keep his voice stay consistently strong all the way to the end of his phrases.

Interested in becoming one of the best public speakers at your company or organization? Contact Speak by Design to learn more about how a public speaking coach or communication consultant could transform your career, or your company's performance, and help you develop your leadership communication skills.