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Interview with Susanne Madsen

With a passion for helping organisations achieve results through leadership and authenticity, speaker Susanne Madsen travels the world with her practical and inspiring keynotes. Susanne specializes in project management, innovation, motivation and organisational culture. Read her interview and learn more about her speaking career.

How did you begin your speaking career?

In 2012, shortly after I had published my first book, I went to Zambia to visit a good friend of mine. She had relocated to Africa with her family and was involved in setting up a new masters degree at the local university. She was looking to inject some new energy into the faculty and said, “You have just published a book. Can’t you do a talk on it for our students and staff?” I was a bit apprehensive but also flattered. I ended up talking about the journey of developing into a leader, and enjoyed every part of it from the connection with the audience to their encouraging feedback. From that moment on I was hooked and decided to actively develop my public speaking skills.


What leadership qualities do you most admire and why? 

The more I study and observe what good leadership looks like, the more in awe I am when I see someone display those qualities. Being a good leader is no small feat, as it requires the combination of a range of opposing qualities. The quality I admire the most is probably when I meet somebody who understands how to combine both yin and yang. Yin symbolises the supportive side of leadership and yang the challenging side. Leaders must embody both aspects as employees and team members have a need to be stretched and supported in order to thrive. Using yin and yang at the same time is a challenge for many as we tend to over-emphasize one aspect as the expense of the other. The leaders I admire are those who can be kind and firm at the same time. Those who have warmth as well as strength. We could call them for Peaceful Warriors.


Do you have a favourite experience from your speaking career?

That’s a good question! I have had a lot of interesting experiences around the world that are all valuable in their own right – including a time when the fire alarm went off in the middle of my speech! A moment that stands out from a recent engagement is when I spoke in Dubai and had the pleasure of connecting with a large Middle Eastern audience. When I went to the female restrooms afterwards I was surrounded by Muslim women who praised my talk and who were keen to exchange business cards. It was a very amusing and surprising moment. Another experience that was deeply meaningful, was the amazing connection I had with the audience in Budapest when I talked about the impact of stress. I told them my own story about how I almost faced burnout and really struck a chord with those listening. Many said that my story resonated deeply and that either themselves or a close family member had been close to burnout. Stress is widespread in today’s workplace and being able to help people overcome it is a deeply meaningful.


Who or what inspires you most?

I wake up most days with an abundance of energy and the desire to help people overcome their barriers. This could be helping somebody have a difficult conversation, build a great team, make better use of their talent, be more authentic and avoid burnout. Making a difference in other people’s lives is what motivates me. It’s incredibly inspiring to listen to my clients’ stories and to see them gain clarity and go on to make the changes in their lives that they dream of. In other words, my inspiration comes from the people I interact with on a daily basis.


Why do clients typically hire you to speak?

I often speak at conferences where the organisers need someone to energise and motivate the audience to think differently about how to lead projects, how to build a team, and how to handle stress and difficult situations. I also get hired by companies who feel that staff isn’t collaborating, taking personal responsibility or stepping into the leadership role. My talks are often described as thought provoking, practical and inspirational. Many of my clients also value the fact that my keynotes can be accompanied with in-depth master classes or one-2-one coaching.


What are your biggest goals in your life/career currently?

I have just handed in the manuscript for the second edition of my book “The Power of Project Leadership”. It’s a huge honour to be able to update my written work so that has taken up a lot of my time this year. On a more personal note I’m on a quest to bring more mindful moments into my day. I coach, train and speak with many people who have a busy, stressed and non-centered mind. Understanding and using mindfulness will help me to better advice my clients, whist also bringing many benefits to my own life.


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