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Funny & insightful keynotes about the future of leadership


Blaire Palmer

travels from UK

Speaker and world authority on leadership and the future of business with practical hands-on tools and strategies.

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5 out of 5 stars

“Blaire offers a wealth of experience in her field, all relevant to today’s business demands, and coupled with an engaging, warm and thought- provoking delivery style, has given me and my colleagues some valuable insights and actions to take and make a positive difference!”

Kosta Christofi - Santander UK See all references

Why you should book speaker Blaire Palmer

  • Her approach is different. She is not a big-shot CEO and she doesn’t have an educational background in business and leadership. But she has consulted leading CEOs through change and knows exactly what’s going on in the boardroom.
  • As a speaker Blaire Palmer is charismatic, warm and energetic. She knows how to handle a crowd and her presentations always get incredible feedback.
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About Blaire

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Future of Leadership expert, Blaire Palmer, draws on more than 20 years’ experience challenging, provoking and guiding senior leaders as they try to figure out how their people and their organisations can thrive in these fast-changing times.  Our relationship with work is on the verge of a disruption the likes of which we haven’t seen since the industrial revolution. That means the expectations of our people, the environment which brings out their best and even the role that business plays in the wider world is up for reinvention. Covering hybrid working, empowerment and engagement, diversity and equity, leadership and motivation and anticipating future work trends, Blaire busts myths about leadership and change, and stimulates audiences with real life stories and fresh ideas to rethink what it means to lead in the 21st Century.

Why you should book speaker Blaire Palmer

  • Her approach is different. She is not a big-shot CEO and she doesn’t have an educational background in business and leadership. But she has consulted leading CEOs through change and knows exactly what’s going on in the boardroom.
  • As a speaker Blaire Palmer is charismatic, warm and energetic. She knows how to handle a crowd and her presentations always get incredible feedback.

As a Producer on the BBC’s flagship “Today Programme” in the 90s, she spent a decade breaking stories and shaping the UK news agenda before her fascination with leadership and change led her to train as one of the UK’s first corporate coaches. Two decades on, she gives audiences unparalleled insight into what’s happening in the most innovative Boardrooms in the UK and Europe, trends she’s spotting in her work and what works (and doesn’t) when it comes to change and leadership in real businesses right now.

She realised early on that there is something about the workplace that stops people doing their best work and that the standard models about motivation, change, culture and leadership were just academic theories. They didn’t work on the ground. And that is even more true today when we need to recalibrate how to lead our businesses in an unfamiliar and volatile post-pandemic world.

Blaire draws on her real experiences working with businesses across industry sectors and present a new kind of leadership based on authentic human connection, trust, empowerment and continual innovation. She shares practical tips that mean audiences can start collaborating with each other more enthusiastically, support their teams to solve gritty problems, create safe spaces where people can speak up and speak out, and feel inspired and energised about the future.

Blaire is the author of 3 successful books on leadership and is regularly quoted in the media. She writes a monthly column for the UK’s leading HR publication HR Zone, has a regular column with AccountingWeb and is host of The Human Revolutionaries Show. She is Chief Executive of That People Thing, a leadership consultancy, and lives in Berkshire with her teenaged daughter, dogs, rabbits and chickens.

Blaire is currently working on her 4th book, Punks in Suits – How to lead the workplace reformation, due for publication 2024. In this book she dives deeper into the key messages in her keynote, calling on today’s senior leaders to rethink how they leverage the creativity, humanity and conscience of their human employees and finally let go of Victorian myths about people, and how to manage them, which still pervade today. With the pace of technological change, the ever-present concern over the climate, new Gen Zs entering the workforce, geopolitical uncertainty and rising levels of stress and burnout, Blaire describes the commercial urgency of questioning deeply held assumptions about people and change, and presents a manifesto for business leaders which will ensure the success of their organisations today and tomorrow. Blaire is now revealing these key messages in her keynotes, giving audiences exclusive access to her breakthrough ideas, prior to publication of the new book.

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Keynote by Speaker Blaire Palmer

Busting the Myths of Leadership

How on earth do we lead in this ‘post-Covid’ world of work? Well, it starts by rejecting conventional wisdom about leadership…the rules of work that evolved in the 19th and 20th Century, and focusing instead on the power of authentic human connection, trust and the wisdom of the people you hired. To do that, leaders need to change the way they see themselves and the role they play in the business and empower their people to be great. Blaire draws on more than 20 years working as a coach and confidante to senior leaders and their teams and presents her practical yet powerful guide to becoming the leader your people need you to be. Lively, funny and thought-provoking, Blaire leaves audiences feeling confident to try something new. 

In such a competitive, fast changing environment, you need everyone in your business to be able to do their best work. You hired them because they were talented, enthusiastic, motivated and ambitious and you want them to bring ALL of that to the organisation so that the business can thrive. Now, of course, you want to know – “What do we, the leaders in the business, need to do to get all of that?”

Bottom line, it’s not the kind of leadership most of us experienced earlier in our careers. That old-style parent-child, tell and sell, hierarchical approach won’t work. We know that. But what should we do instead? And why, despite our best efforts, does it feel so hard?

In this keynote Blaire busts Industrial Age myths about leadership that prevent us bringing out the very best in the people we employ. She presents an alternative model focused on authentic human connection, trust, radical collaboration and creativity, driven by a sense of shared purpose.

Audiences discover –

  • The differences between their role as a manager and their role as a leader…and discover what a leader really does with their time
  • How old truths – things like “I’m supposed to know the right thing to do”, “I wouldn’t expect anyone else to work the hours I work”, “My job is to protect my team” and much more – influence their behaviour day-to-day
  • The limits they put on their willingness to trust and how to empower others (Tip: People can only be as empowered as your willingness to give away power!)
  • The risks of siloed, hierarchical ways of working and how subtle changes in their words and behaviours can break down those barriers straight away
  • What true diversity looks like and the practical changes they can make to create a more equitable, inclusive and outcomes-driven culture

This is an entertaining, provocative, energising keynote for leaders who want to put people at the heart of the business. Audiences leave with practical tips and confidence that they can do something different, and get different results, straight away.

Keynote by speaker Blaire Palmer

Busting the Myths of Change

The rules of change are changing. It’s not about selling people on ‘The Why’ anymore. Now they need to feel THEY are leading the change. In this keynote, Blaire draws on more than two decades running leadership and culture change programmes to explain how to create passionate enthusiastic for change throughout your organisation.

The conventional wisdom is that, to bring about change, the best leaders create followers. Then they paint a picture of a glorious destination, explain WHY this is the best or only option and, once everyone ‘gets it’ change occurs. If it doesn’t it’s either a communication problem – people didn’t understand – or they did understand but people are resistant to change and are too afraid to take the leap. Leaders are left frustrated, asking “How many times do we have to tell them before they overcome their innate fear of change and buy-in to the plan?”.

But what if none of that is true?

In this keynote, Blaire explains how conventional wisdom about change leads to frustration, organisational tension, disengagement and low levels of trust. Instead, she explains how to create an environment where people are enthusiasts for change, taking responsibility for it themselves and acting as if the business was their own.

Change starts at the top – an organisation can only be as sophisticated as its leaders. So it’s time to place your bets – are you going to stick with the way you’ve always ‘done change’? Or are you going to try something new?

Audiences discover –

  • How changes in the wider world – social, political, cultural and technological – are changing the way we need to lead if we want things to change
  • Why you don’t have a ‘communication problem’, you have a connection problem. (Tip: Change isn’t logical, it’s emotional and no amount of explaining ‘the why’ will be enough to convince people to go through the pain of change)
  • What stops people stepping up and taking ownership even though you mean it when you say “My door is always open”
  • That the relentless pursuit of the ‘right answer – when there isn’t one – is keeping the organisation stuck in the slow lane, turning bold ideas in to bland ones, and stopping people coming to you with their best ideas
  • How silos, endless meetings and busy-work suffocate creativity, keeping people focused on internal competition for resources, recognition and influence rather than noticing threats and opportunities outside the business and working in radical collaboration to meet those head on.

This is an entertaining, provocative, energising keynote for leaders and their teams. Audiences leave with practical actions they can immediately take away and feeling reinvigorated about change themselves.

Watch speaker Blaire Palmer in action

Meet Blaire Palmer!

Update from Blaire Palmer!

Blaire Palmer - Update May 2023

See keynotes with Blaire Palmer


"Blaire Palmer gave insight to the core of what it takes to be a leader today. Blaire brought a sense of realism, humour and practicality to an energising session, leaving a deep impression on the audience".

Ian Gregory – Head of Learning and Development

Foreign Commonwealth Office

"Blaire’s interactive and engaging session on behaviour change was the perfect fit for our conference. Her fascination with leadership and change shone through and she presented our audience with an array of real take-home advice that resonated with everyone in the room”.

Luke Nichols - Editor


“Blaire Palmer was everything the EAIE wanted in a leadership speaker. In only 45 minutes she was able to turn everyone’s perceptions of leadership and management on its head. Blaire was extremely relevant and was able to clearly and simply get her message across to our international audience. She is a must have for any conference! Highly recommended!”

Nicole Hardaker - Conference Programme Coordinator,

European Association for International Education (EAIE)

"Blaire captivated our audience in presenting her experience and advice with regard to empowering McCormick's staff to succeed and develop. She was upbeat, engaging and gave us confidence that we are on the right journey with regard to diversity in our company."

Melanie Williams - VP Human Resources EMEA

McCormick UK Ltd

"Blaire's presentation was inspiring, relevant, fresh and fun. There was a great sense of collaboration at our Top 100 Leaders meeting today and that was, in no small way, down to the thought-provoking messages and enthusiasm that Blaire brought to the event. Just what we needed."

Petar Cvetkovic - Chief Executive

DX Group

“Blaire was amazing, motivation, inspirations but, most importantly for our audience, relatable and so genuine. It was truly a pleasure to have her as part of the conference”

Cycle and Outdoor Concepts

Busting the Myths of Leadership

Most of our ideas about what makes a leader come from the Industrial Age. It’s all about working harder than anyone else, natural charisma, being a tough negotiator, an inspirational speaker, being up front, taking the final decision, winning.

At the same time we tell leaders to be emotionally intelligent, to connect, to coach, to delegate and empower. It’s no surprise we’re all so confused, right?

In fact, being a leader isn’t terribly complicated. After all, what is a leader? Someone who looks at what is, and what could be, and disrupts the status quo to bring about change. Leadership can come from anywhere. It’s not all about your senior executives or the Board. Leadership isn’t a job title. It’s a way of being, and seeing the world.

Leaders create more leaders

We have to let go of the idea that leaders create followers. Today we need leaders who create more leadership. We want leadership to pop up all over the organisation. We want individuals to take ownership for solving problems and gather together a group of other people who can help bring about that change.

Companies need clarity of purpose

In order to do this (without chaos) companies need to have a clear purpose. This is more than a mission statement or bland values…sorry, Brand Values. It’s genuine clarity about why the business exists in the world. What is it here to do? When purpose beats everything else (including shareholder value) leadership can emerge. Employees see the organisation’s purpose and they see what’s getting in the way and they are given freedom to solve the problem.

Hierarchical thinking inhibits innovation

Our Industrial Age forefathers operated their businesses like machines. And the hierarchy is very machine-like, isn’t it? But today’s businesses have to be agile, responsive and ready to pivot at any time to adapt to the changing context in which the organisation operates. Human being aren’t great machines. Anyway if, as predicted, bots are going to do half of the jobs currently done by humans in the next decade, it’s our humanity we need to leverage. Leaders need to create space for others to do great work and then get out of the way. That means not being the answers-person any more, but being the curious questions-person. It means getting out of the day to day and sensing, observing, imagining and reflecting. It means swallowing the ego and finding a deeper meaning in your work.

Bug-fix because there are no right answers

Leaders must let go of having all the answers because there are none! It’s the Wild West out there. Instead, we need to be quick learners, fast failures and listen so hard to what other people say that we might actually change our minds. By the time you’re 99% sure you’re right it’s too late anyway.

Think like a CEO

Leaders see the organisation as a whole. They don’t battle for recognition for their team or resources for their team or special treatment for their team. They step outside of the siloes and see the organisation as a single entity. Beyond that they see what’s going on in their industry, in the world beyond and reflect on how that impacts the decisions being made today.

They don’t worry about the competition because they aren’t fighting to be number one in today’s market. They are aware that the threat is from disrupters coming up their blindside so they become the disrupters, rethinking their industry and what the future consumer/planet will need.

None of this is hard

It’s about being a human being. It’s about stripping back all the theory and going on a journey of self-development. That’s all leadership development is in fact – personal growth. As long as we stay connected with ourselves and take ourselves outside our comfort zones we can grow. The organisation can only be as developed as its leaders so we owe it to our staff, our customers and the wider community to reveal more of who we are to them and to ourselves.


Interview with Blair Palmer

How did you begin your speaking career?

I’ve been coaching leaders for nearly 20 years and I was a BBC journalist before that. In both of these roles your opinion is irrelevant. Coaches and journalists are meant to be neutral. But, as a child I had always wanted to be a performer – an actor, a singer and even a tightrope walker in the circus. We cannot hide our true colours forever! When I hit 40 my opinions started ‘leaking out’ more in coaching sessions. Eventually someone asked me if I could speak at a conference about some of my ideas and the little actress in me said yes. I love being able to distil my nearly 30 years of experience and the universal lessons about leadership and change that I learnt during that time in to 45 minutes, just like a journalist helps us understand something as complex as a big world event in a three minute news story.

What makes you so passionate about leadership?

The newsroom is a tough environment. It’s not always a healthy one. I share my own experiences of a bullying boss with audiences because it was in that pivotal moment, when I was still in my 20s, that I started wondering how we create organisations where, instead of suffocating people and their ideas, we allow people and their ideas to thrive. Work has the potential to provide a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives and business has the opportunity to be a force for good in the world, but only when leaders understand their responsibility.

Why do clients hire you to speak?

You know how tempting it is in a busy restaurant or bar to listen in to the conversation on the next table? You want to know what other people talk about, think about, feel is important. Well, I’ve sat at hundreds of boardroom tables and through thousands of hours of coaching conversations and I give audiences the opportunity to understand what the best and worst of those leaders talk about, think about and feel is important. A keynote speaker should always be entertaining, tell great stories, connect with the audience and build trust straight away, and generate energy and momentum so that people take action after. I combine all of that with the insights I’ve gained from being the person other leaders confide in so that you get the wisdom of all of those private conversations.

What have you learnt about change in your own life?

In 2018, I sold our house and set off with my daughter and our two dogs on an RV adventure around Europe. My intention was to test some of my theories about change and put myself outside my comfort zone. It’s something I talk about in my speech “You Don’t Have To Be Mad To Work Here”. This experience taught me that changing your situation or your circumstances is only the first step in the journey of change. Most people think it is the last. Having made a change to the mechanics of your life, or your business, or your team, or your product, you then embark on the REAL journey of change where your beliefs and assumptions are questioned, your bad habits of thinking and being are exposed, and you must grow and evolve as a person. When we stay within our comfort zone we don’t have the opportunity to grow or learn. Change begins the moment you step outside your comfort zone.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Funny, insightful, short.

See keynotes with Blaire Palmer
Non-binding request for Blaire Palmer

Send a simple request. You’ll get a quick reply with fees and availability

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Blaire Palmer
Blaire Palmer

5 out of 5 stars

“Blaire offers a wealth of experience in her field, all relevant to today’s business demands, and coupled with an engaging, warm and thought- provoking delivery style, has given me and my colleagues some valuable insights and actions to take and make a positive difference!”

Kosta Christofi - Santander UK See all references

Keynote topics with Blaire Palmer