Practice Makes Perfect For CEOs On Camera

Below is a transcript of Tribe CEO Vern Oakley’s interview conducted by Richard Rierson for the Dose of Leadership podcast. Vern discusses his new book Leadership in Focus and other topics. Thanks again to Richard for the lively conversation!

 Dose of Leadership Podcast episode 289. Welcome to another episode of the Dose of Leadership Podcast, the show that brings you inspiring and educational interviews with today’s most relevant and motivating leaders. Each episode is dedicated to highlight real life leadership and influence experts who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of the truth, common sense and courageous leadership. Now here’s your host, Richard Rierson.
Richard Rierson:Hey if you’ve been listening to Dose of Leadership, you’ve probably heard me talk about the currencies needed for effective leadership. I contend that if you’re going to be in a leadership business that you have to have the willingness to be authentic, to be vulnerable and to be courageous. Well my guest today, Vern Oakley had me add one more to that list and it’s a great addition. Vern suggested or contends that we should also be willing to be inquisitive, to be curious, always be searching why. I love that addition. Vern is the CEO, the founder and the creative director of Drive Pictures.
 You could consider him a business artist really because what he does is he produces and directs films for Global 1000 companies. He’s been doing it for over 30 years and he tries to drive a high performance culture through storytelling. He’s got a brand new book out there called, “Leadership in Focus: Bringing out your best on camera.” Helping business leaders, helping people like ourselves convey our authenticity on camera which is not easy to do. It’s a great conversation. A lot of great leadership nuggets in this conversation and I really appreciate Vern coming on the show. In the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy this conversation with Vern Oakley the founder, CEO and creative director of Tribe Pictures.
 Well Vern I’m so excited to have you on this show. Welcome to Dose of Leadership.
Vern Oakley:Thank you. Excited to be here.
Richard Rierson:You know I’m always excited to talk to people who understand the power of storytelling and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to bring you on this show. You know video isn’t my thing. Audio is my thing. I see the power in audio and storytelling but you are the master, sir, of telling stories with video. How did you get started in the video spectrum?
Vern Oakley:Wow I could start back a little bit further when my parents bought me a Bellenhow Super Eight.
Richard Rierson:Nice.
Vern Oakley:Camera and movie projector which I was just so fascinated with to leave my farm and go out and shoot the sunrises or sunsets, the abandoned buildings, the sort of beauty of nature. I really got intrigued and then I’d shoot my sister and myself water-skiing and run the projector backwards so we’d pop in and out of the water. This was so cool. How could you not want to make movies.
Richard Rierson:Yeah. That’s so awesome. It’s awesome to see with your new book, “Leadership in focus,” here you are, you’re a filmmaker but you’ve got a book that focuses on leadership. I haven’t really seen anybody talk about the power of bringing authenticity of film. I mean we talk about authenticity ad nauseum on this show. So speak to me a little bit about why that’s important to you. Why do you think it’s important for leaders to harness this kind of video spectrum?
Vern Oakley:You know, my company just celebrated it’s 30th anniversary. We’ve made feature films and we’ve made television. We’ve made over 3000 videos for corporations and worked with some of the most influential leaders of modern business today. That sort of being inside those hallowed halls of business, I really came to understand that most people will never get to meet their leader.
Richard Rierson:Right.
Vern Oakley:Most people will never sit across from them and have a cup of coffee and have a kind of conversation that you’d want to have with a leader. So when you take that down to the next level, how do leaders get their vision out? Well we’ve become a digital and visual society and that the next three years, 84% of all internet traffic is going to be video. We come to form our impressions about all sorts of people whether they be movie stars or TV personalities or sports heroes or business leaders through the videos that we see them in. When you start to think about that, if you as a leadership requirement in this digital age, you really need to present your authentic self on camera. It’s a requirement now because that’s how people will come to know you.
Richard Rierson:That’s why I’ve always, since I started this podcast, I recognized the power of the audio spectrum and that was always one of my arguments was well look. If I can get, to me there was nothing more intimate than a really great audio conversation because the listener is painting kind of the picture with his mind. You can really get people to open up and be intimate. That was always my challenge with video when I saw myself or corporate executives or someone trying to talk on video, it was just so stiff and contrived and so I got to hand it to you. If you can break the code on getting somebody to be authentic on video because, and I’ve just started recording myself on YouTube and it’s like, okay. I’m just going to be myself, but man what a hurdle to get people to bust through that kind of, I don’t know, inauthentic self. Why do, when the red light comes on, why do we feel like we got to be somebody else?
Vern Oakley:That’s such a great question. I’m going to break it down into two parts because a lot of leaders really see this is as something that’s just, they’re going to check off a list. I have to make this video and I’m going to come in and hopefully my chief of communications is going to write a teleprompter script. I go in. I perform. Okay.
 Well if you look at that particular segment of communication, the teleprompter is a process of reading. Your viewers may not understand that. There’s a little mirrored camera that’s in front of the lens and the words are sort of rolling by. You can see the people reading and they’re eyes are shifting right and left and it’s very hard. What that does, that drives you into a different part of the brain than the kind of authentic conversations we like to have. It’s a real skill that the performers learn because they work at teleprompter, weeks, months, days, years, decades. Most of us just don’t have that and don’t choose to practice that. Just the teleprompter is its own barrier to authenticity.
 In terms of the other types of just interview sessions, the camera is scary. I certainly understood that because I never wanted to be in front of the camera. Now that I’ve written this book I have been in front of the camera and I try to do my best but it’s a way of recording you and it’s a little intimidating. If you look at the way that Hollywood sort of made this all work is they used to do screen tests because sometimes the camera just loves you and you’re shocked that this sort of average ordinary person becomes a movie star. There’s that magic that happens. But when we’re looking at our leaders, they’re pre-cast.
Richard Rierson:Yeah. Right.
Vern Oakley:We don’t get to cast them for, the part of the CEO today will be played by Russell Crowe or something like that. It’s a skill like skiing or canoeing or playing basketball. You just have to practice it a little bit and you have to understand what the barriers are. We all, if you look at the brain science that kind of drives this, the primitive part of the brain has that flight or fight response. What happens is that we get a little scared. We’re a little nervous. I know I am. That makes you want to feel powerful. If you’re a peacock you’d be putting your plumage up. We put masks on to hide who we are because we think that that’s the way to be a leader and it’s not.
Richard Rierson:It’s so funny, isn’t it? Because I was just doing a training session yesterday and we talked about this a lot. Because I think the currencies, really the primary currencies for leadership I think, you have to be number one is authenticity. Number two is vulnerability and number three is courage, willing to be courageous. Those are really three things that human beings are not that good at. Someone challenged me and said, “Well what do you mean? Are you saying that I’m, we’re not naturally authentic?” And I said I just, I don’t mean that you’re necessarily lacking integrity but we do, when we stand up in front of people, we where masks. We’re afraid of what people really think about us.
 I can’t tell you how many times, particularly people in high leadership roles suffer this imposter syndrome. Like oh my God, I’m going to get found out, that I really am not fit for this role, for whatever reason. All those limiting beliefs just start, seem attacking us and I guess it gets magnified like I said, when the camera lights get turned on.
Vern Oakley:That’s so true. In that what you start to learn is that the best leaders have figured out how to tell their own story and have accepted their own successes and failures and share something that makes them vulnerable. On my own story, one of the gifts that I got was actually one of the scars that I had. I was raised in a family where there was alcoholism.
Richard Rierson:Right.
Vern Oakley:I’m an adult children of alcoholics and one of the things you start to realize is that as a child who went through that experience, you need to understand what is true and what is not true because you’re constantly off balance.
Richard Rierson:Right.
Vern Oakley:My task and my purpose in life was always to pull off the mask, to understand what’s happened and I developed that later in life through studying acting and directing and directing theater and brought that into the corporate arena because when I see an executive, I’m fine-tuned to when the mask is coming off.
Richard Rierson:Yeah. Yeah. I see that in coaching too. When I sit down with somebody and I can tell right away. I share with them my story from the get go, very vulnerable, very personal story that I usually wouldn’t tell in public but I tell the person sitting across from me one on one who’s a potential client. When they see that I can see their mask come off and it’s so powerful. I’m with you on that. I mean something significant happens when you take that mask off and I wish people would realize that more, that nobody really wants to hear how great you were. They want to hear how you came out of the mud, right? That’s what people want to hear.
Vern Oakley:Yeah. Absolutely. The way I contextualize or talk about it is like we help to humanize leaders in the companies they serve. So if we can start with the leadership and make them appear as human beings who have their own vulnerability, you know. Great research coming out by Brene Brown and Amy Cuddy, so you can understand the sort of scientific point of view. I had all that information 20, 30 years ago because I was studying it as an artist, directing actors.
Richard Rierson:You know and that is the power of art isn’t it? I think the more I … I used to think I was a kind of an operations numbers guy, but the more that I’ve become entrepreneurial, the more that I’ve studied leadership, the more that I’ve studied people who’ve achieved significance, there’s always a great deal of artistry involved in it. I guess because great art really is authentic, right? I mean there’s nothing fake about great art.
Vern Oakley:That’s such a great point. What artists are trying to do is really get to what’s real. They’re touching those scary dark shadowy or spiritual places in a way that connect us, in a way. We start to see things that are more universal. That journey to becoming an artist is so similar to becoming a great leader.
Richard Rierson:Right. Because it also taps … Another reason why is because it taps into the love side of you. Because I think there’s really just two umbrellas. There’s a fear umbrella and there’s a love umbrella. We’re operating under one or the other. Too often we’re under the fear one and if we can get into that love one, that’s when the magic starts to happen.
Vern Oakley:Absolutely. Because that fear and love umbrella, they’re just two sides of the same coin and you can see the flip happen.
Richard Rierson:Yeah.
Vern Oakley:Like you were talking about revealing when you’re talking to a leader, to your own vulnerability and their mask comes down. That’s what happens. We’re fearful and then the flip happens and we become … We just want to bond and connect. That’s sort of our driving purpose here on this planet, is to make those connections with other human beings.
Richard Rierson:I agree. But it seems like. Ah, I mean this resonates with me deeply, very deeply, what you’re saying. I’m still amazed and shocked at this kind of perception or this myth that to be a great leader you have to be this almost type A driver mentality that isn’t in touch with the human or the love side of people. I’m still amazed by that.
Vern Oakley:You know what’s interesting to me? I don’t know if you’ve read Sebastian Unger’s book “Tribes”
Richard Rierson:Yes. I’ve read some of that. I’ve read bits and pieces of it.
Vern Oakley:Well what he talks about it and he talked about this subsequently in a magazine article, is that being in the military is one of the few places where a man could love another man in a very unique way. And you came out of the military.
Richard Rierson:Yeah.
Vern Oakley:So I’m sure you experienced that. His best friend, the person he made these documentaries with over time, died in a battle. He then experiences perhaps that greatest ability and loss of love. So that we’re always trying to connect in that sort of love connection and it’s surprising that when you think about it, coming out of the military, because we usually think of the military having the old style of leadership which is command and control.
Richard Rierson:Yeah. I always say that the Marine Corps, my experience anyway was the most loving organization I’ve ever worked in, by far. Even though it was pretty … When it was firing on all cylinders, it was very authentic. It was very raw. It was very … I mean it wasn’t touchy feely but it was full of love. I can’t describe it any other way. Most people, and I wasn’t in a dangerous combat situation but I’ve known a lot of World War II marines or marines that have been in combat and you always ask them. In fact I asked an Iwo Jima World War II marine who was a good friend, he passed away a couple years ago. But I asked him after all that crazy stuff that he saw, what was the biggest takeaway and he didn’t hesitate. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t even think. He just said, “Oh the biggest think I learned is I learned how to love another human being deeply.”
Vern Oakley:That’s great.
Richard Rierson:I was like holy cow. And his wife started crying. She goes, “It’s true. He’s the most loving,” and here he is. He saw all this carnage. He saw all this just like, just depravity of humanity. Things that we can’t even imagine and that was his biggest lesson. He learned how to love another human being deeply. I thought that was great.
Vern Oakley:You know, I think that kind of experience is actually seeping into corporate, corporations all over the world now. I think that the ability for business to understand love not just as this romantic love, but there’s many different kinds of love when you really start to read deeply about it. It’s what leaders need to do and it’s what’s going to change our businesses which are helping to change our society which is going to make it a better world.
Richard Rierson:Yes. It’s so true. Well your dad was a marine right? Wasn’t he a World War II marine?
Vern Oakley:Yeah. He was a marine right around the Korean War. He was stationed out in San Diego. He’s 87 and what’s interesting to me is we just went over his last will and testament and he has got his military papers and he wants to be buried in Quantico.
Richard Rierson:Wow. When he talks about the Marine Corps, does he talk about it in those terms? How does, what was his experience like?
Vern Oakley:You know I just sort of came across this actually by listening to some of your podcasts, Leaders Eat Last with Simon Sinek and George Flynn, so thank you. This is a conversation I need to have with him.
Richard Rierson:Yeah. I’d be curious to see what he says. A lot of times those, it can go either way you know. Even that same individual I told you who was a World War II marine, he had a friend that was the same age that was on Iwo Jima with him and he went the opposite way. He lived the rest of his life with a lot of hatred, a lot of anger and anxiety right? It is a choice that we can make. Same experience but went two different paths. That’s always interesting to me.
Vern Oakley:You know, I’m glad you say that because when you divide the world into fear and love, the fear side has anger and depression and all those kinds of things. But one of the things that I like to talk about in terms of authenticity is you can tell your own story. It’s up to you. So you can tell events may not be different but your interpretation of events are vastly different. As your personal interpretation of events and the way that you put those in context that really makes the story going towards love or the story going towards fear and hate.
Richard Rierson:Oh I can’t agree more. I mean I always thought it would be very powerful, you know … We were talking about how many opportunities does a CEO or other leader get to authentically communicate to his tribe. You know if you can get somebody on video, if you can get them on a stage, you know you can stand up and give the state of the state or state of the business. That’s always good, and talk about this, but man wouldn’t it be so powerful if you could get an authentic conversation going, sort of Oprah Super Soul Sunday style on the stage or on the camera and that CEO gets that out to his folks. They start learning about his dog named Beau and his grandpa raised him because his dad died when he was young. All that kind of stuff comes out and people start to see him as a human being. That to me is what drives me in business. I think if more CEOs and more leaders could do that, I think it could turn their company or take it down a path that it’s never been.
Vern Oakley:We were just working with one of the best CEOs I’ve ever worked with. He actually interviewed in the book. I won’t tell you his name right now because this is a personal story but I didn’t know it until I heard his backstory that he had two autistic children. The ability to work through that with his wife and to raise them and the kind of love that was required made him such a phenomenal leader that people want to be with him and people want to spend time and people trust. Ultimately leadership is people giving you their trust and wanting to follow you. It’s not autocratic.
Richard Rierson:Oh my gosh yeah. It’s so true. But going back to that story of that CEO you were saying. Here he is, he has these two autistic children and I’m sure, as human beings as we’re going through those things, we take those cards that kind of have been dealt to us in life and we may go through a period of oh why me? This is going to delay my progress or this is a stumbling block. This is an obstacle. But it’s those obstacles and those stumbling blocks that actually create the significance I think. I don’t know of anybody that doesn’t have a muddy backstory. Anybody that’s created anything of significance always has a muddy backstory. It’s that muddy backstory that actually creates the opportunity or enhances the opportunity I should say or allows us to become the people we are called to be. It’s almost like what we perceive as obstacles and weaknesses or downsides are actually, if we embrace them, become our greatest strengths.
Vern Oakley:I think your last couple of words, embracing them, really understanding, that’s … The cave you fear to enter is where the truth is.
Richard Rierson:Yeah.
Vern Oakley:When you embrace that story and sort of own and it and work through it as opposed to hiding it, because when you hide it what happens? The mask comes up.
Richard Rierson:Hey we’ll get back to our conversation with Vern in just a minute but I wanted to share with you something brand new that I just created. A free 12 minute video that you can access at This is a perfect video if you’re looking to learn how to dramatically increase your leadership influence. I don’t care what your personality type is. Even if you’re an introvert, even if you have minimal experience as a leader, this video’s perfect for you. It will show you the tools of how to become a more impactful and influential leader.
 You’ll also learn inside that charisma’s overrated. It’s one of my big pet peeves. Look leadership is not about being a larger than life personality. Instead it’s more about learning how to become more calm, more confident, more consistent, more courageous in every aspect of your life. You’ve heard me say this on this show, time and time again. In the video you’ll also learn that leadership is easy to understand. It’s accessible to all of us. Even if you have minimal leadership experience, you consider yourself an introvert, like I said you can still be an impactful leader of influence. That’s what you’ll learn in this video.
 You’ll also learn how you can gain access, exclusive access to a special that I’m running on my Legacy Leader Blueprint online course. 20 impactful and revolutionary videos that will give you the exact formula, step by step on leadership foundations, how to lead yourself, how to lead others and how to transform the lives of other leaders and start producing this life full of purpose, of significance, of passion, of profitability in every aspect of your life.
 So go check it out, at You’ll see a short little video about myself and you can enter your name and your email and you’ll get access to this great free 12 minute video that you won’t find anywhere else. All right? Now back to our conversation with Vern Oakley.
 Tell me how do you do it? How do you get somebody, here I am. I, maybe I’m skeptical of this video thing and you’re telling me and I’ve never been in front of a camera. What are some of the tactics I can do to finally get myself to relax in front of this strange device that you’re pointing at me?
Vern Oakley:Well in “Leadership in Focus,” we break it down into a lot of different areas. There’s you know, sort of the beginners and then there’s the advanced. We go into a great deal of description about how teleprompters can work in some of the lessons and that part of it is that it’s a tremendous amount of self judgment. We’re very critical. We don’t like to be embarrassed in front of others.
Richard Rierson:Right.
Vern Oakley:Particularly with CEOs who are masters of the universe in some ways, this, when they come onto a video set, it’s not their ballgame. So they’re out of control. It’s not, it’s not the usual thing that they’re doing and they have to have the kind of trust in their communication folks, in the film crew, that will allow them to sort of express themselves. Otherwise you don’t really get something more than just a professional performance. What we’re looking for is to break it down a bit more and reveal an authentic human being. I like to say breathe. One of the simple things is you have to breathe. Fear is excitement without the breath.
Richard Rierson:Yeah, right.
Vern Oakley:Then I try to get people to really talk from their passion and from their heart. A lot of people don’t realize this. In the world of corporate communication people come out of journalism a lot or public relations and so they like to think in words. And words on video are certainly important, very, very important but body language is equally important and vocal intonation is equally important. You need to get the voice, being excited, matching up with the body, showing me the excitement along with the words that are excited. And when you get those three things together, you can have authentic true communication on video.
Richard Rierson:Right. It’s almost like and again it’s almost cliché but like I just didn’t even realize the camera was there. I’ve heard people say that. That’s happened to me a few … You know when I finally started getting more comfortable in front of the camera, it’s like you forgot it was even there. I don’t know how I got there exactly except that I tapped into my heart of what I was trying to get across.
Vern Oakley:You’re in the flow.
Richard Rierson:In the flow.
Vern Oakley:That’s why. What you want.
Richard Rierson:Stopped worrying about myself. Stopped worrying about being wrong. Stopped worrying being criticized because everybody has the same fears. I think that to me, the moment I can remember … This is from a leadership perspective, the moment that I stopped worrying about being wrong and worrying about what other people thought, that moment drastically changed my life. I can remember the moment when I just stopped worrying about it.
Vern Oakley:That’s great advice.
Richard Rierson:Yeah. It’s so simple. I know it’s hard to do but it really, I mean … That’s where the, I think it’s the more I started understanding artists. Because when you realize no matter who’s creating something, that the people who are actually creating something, I don’t care what it is, a paper, a video, a movie, a painting, a story, people that actually put something out there for people to criticize is probably one of the most courageous acts that you can do, right?
Vern Oakley:As an artist, we all feel vulnerable. When we finish a film and we send it to a client for their review or we’re in the same room, it’s like we’re on pins and needles. We want to please them. We want to create something that’s strategic and useful. We’re nervous and sometimes we don’t hear for a day or two and we’re like, oh did we make something good? What’s wrong? Why aren’t we getting …
Richard Rierson:Right. We want that validation. I know. It’s always so, it’s so crazy how you put something out there and you’re hoping it’s going to resonate with someone you know?
Vern Oakley:Absolutely.
Richard Rierson:Even if it’s just with one person. Well you have such a storied and impressive resume. I was always amazed too, I was pleased to find out that you were a big part of Reading Rainbow. Tell me a little bit about that. I mean just because I remember the show. I remember how successful it was. It was on for so long. How involved were you with it?
Vern Oakley:I was directing the last half of the last season of Reading Rainbow. I was brought in because they had let the director who did the first half of the season go. What was so interesting to me about Reading Rainbow is it’s such a beloved show. Levar Burton is such a great host. Talk about authenticity.
Richard Rierson:Yes, for sure.
Vern Oakley:Looking at the camera and bringing the kids along on a journey. Just love that. So with the producers and an amazing director of photography, Nadine Pariso who went on to direct a number of Hollywood features and TV shows, we said, if these are the last five episodes, let’s do something extraordinary. We just all got together and rolled up our sleeves and tried to make those the best five episodes that had ever been done. What was great was the show got renewed and went on for another four years.
Richard Rierson:Oh how fun. What did you do? How did you make it greater?
Vern Oakley:What we tried to do was really try to get the essence of Levar playing with the kids in the situations. One of my favorite stories was “Three Hat Day,” which is a beautiful, beautiful book. I hope your readers, if they have any kids, pick this up. Levar goes into a magical hat store, just like in the book and puts on three different hats. Those three different hats take him to three different things. One of them happened to be a hockey helmet. That was a terrific lesson in leadership because we got to shoot with Kelly Rudy, who was the goal tender of the Islanders hockey team. What he did was he showed Levar a bunch of basics and we shot it on the ice and we had a lot of fun using the Ride of the Valkyrie for the last thing with the hockey players charging Levar.
 What was so interesting about that particular episode was the the Islanders had been on a losing streak all season and after Kelly Rudy went back to the basics of goal tending, they won the next few games. He was quoted in the paper as saying you know sometimes you just have to go to the basics, back to the basics to really understand the fundamentals of the game. I thought that was so interesting what a great lesson for leaders.
Richard Rierson:Yeah. That is nice. It’s almost like, and I’m thinking, I took some … I guess when was it? About seven, eight years ago and there was a lady here locally. She just passed away last October. She was an acting coach and there’s not a lot of acting coaches here in Wichita, Kansas and she had been out in Hollywood and been in some shows. She worked under, who’s the? Oh the name’s escaping me. Method actor guy, New York, the famous …
Vern Oakley:Lee Strasberg?
Richard Rierson:Lee Strasberg. She worked under Lee Strasberg and had a lot of pictures with him. I was needing some help with some of my public speaking skills. I was wanting a coach for that but she’s an acting coach and she put me under a lot of acting drills. That I got to tell you was so beneficial in so many ways, the more that I’m looking back. She helped for my presentations and she was there. But it was the acting lessons that I just, it totally caught me off guard. I never would have thought how beneficial those acting lessons would have been. What are your thoughts on that?
Vern Oakley:Well in the book, I actually talk about that because Lee Strasberg who founded The Actor’s Studio, I got to study at The Actor’s Studio for seven years, in the writers and directors unit with Ellen Bernstein and Arthur Penn.
Richard Rierson:He was the one that did The Chase? Arthur Penn? The Chase? Wasn’t he?
Vern Oakley:Well he did Bonnie and Clyde.
Richard Rierson:Bonnie and Clyde, yeah that’s right.
Vern Oakley:The Miracle Worker.
Richard Rierson:Oh yeah.
Vern Oakley:A number of fabulous films. That when he passed away just a few years ago, I was reading his obituary in the New York Times and he had actually been hired as an acting presentation coach for Jack Kennedy in the Nixon/Kennedy debates.
Richard Rierson:I’ll be darned.
Vern Oakley:I realized that the lessons that I’d learned from Arthur and other acting teachers were lessons that I was applying to helping corporate executives. That that, the Nixon/Kennedy debates was the beginning of people realizing that television and what would become internet, YouTube and other things where we only see leaders in their videos, started the whole trend in leaders trying to be more authentic and trying to capture the way they really are in front of the lens.
Richard Rierson:Yeah I guess the biggest lesson I got was, I mean for someone who was not familiar with the process, you would think that acting is about being something that you’re not but really great acting taps into the authenticity piece. It taps into the authentic human nature.
Vern Oakley:Boy you had a good acting teacher.
Richard Rierson:Yeah. Yeah. That’s what she got. I’ll never forget. The biggest, one of the first lessons she gave, we had to do a scene from Kramer versus Kramer and she had me memorize and do the scene where Dustin Hoffman’s in the … It’s his turn to kind of testify about why he should keep his son. Are you familiar with the scene? You know what I’m talking about?
Vern Oakley:Yes. I love that scene. Yes.
Richard Rierson:I had to do that. I remember when I first did it and I went into it with the mindset of okay … I messed up a line. I’m like hey wait can we start over? Her eyes got as big as saucers and she says, that was my first lesson in acting. So we did it again and it just turned into this whole improvised scene that just went on for … After we got through that scene, it went on for like 15 minutes. It was just amazing. I don’t know. It’s hard to even describe. It was an amazing experience.
Vern Oakley:When you talk about that and messing up the line but I’m sure your acting teacher was talking about staying in the moment.
Richard Rierson:Yeah, staying in the moment. That’s what she was, yup.
Vern Oakley:That’s the most frequent line I hear from leaders when they’re doing their on camera work. Is like, oh no I messed that up. I’ll get it right next time and I’m going like well Meryl Streep doesn’t get it right til take 16. So these leaders are so hard on themselves and they want to be perfect on take one and it’s just an unrealistic expectation.
Richard Rierson:Yeah. I love this. I love what you’re doing. I love the book. How is the book going? How long has it been out?
Vern Oakley:Well the book comes out April 4, so just a few weeks but we’re number one on Amazon in our category for pre-sales right now.
Richard Rierson:I saw that, yeah.
Vern Oakley:It’s gaining momentum.
Richard Rierson:I’m excited for this thing to come out. Like I said, I haven’t seen anybody come out with anything like this. I think anybody who’s interested in being a better leader needs to grab this book and probably even take acting lessons. What do you think about that?
Vern Oakley:You know, I think acting lessons are certainly helpful in the right context, but what we’re talking about is taking the lessons from acting and applying them to the actual leadership skills and being on camera for the purposes of business. It’s one of the things that people kind of confuse. Is they think media training is the same as what we’re talking about.
Richard Rierson:Yeah, that’s a great point, yeah.
Vern Oakley:Media training is not the same thing because media training is teaching people to be, to pivot when somebody asks you a question you don’t want to answer and to obfuscate and to come back forcefully. In some ways, it’s, these lessons almost can, depending on who teaches them, needs to be undone when they come to camera. Because the stuff that we’re doing is about connecting with their employees. It’s about connecting with their shareholders. It’s about recruiting the best people. It’s about creating a culture, a high performance culture that people want to be a part of. That’s a whole different thing than being interviewed on Squawk Box.
Richard Rierson:Man that’s so true. I think that, you know I saw … It’s almost like there’s too much of that. I mean the last thing I want to do is to prep somebody so they can look good on Fox News or CNN. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about tapping into the authentic core of who you really are because there’s so much power in that authenticity. It’s not the norm. The norm is to be the polished slick piece and that’s not what we’re talking about here.
Vern Oakley:Not at all. I mean that polished slick piece may have worked 10 or 20 years ago, but in an era where videos are going viral because you’re actually seeing something that’s really amazing, maybe not something beyond a cat but a father and son interacting or a mother and daughter or a family doing something really special that what compels us to share these videos is the feelings that we feel while we’re watching them. What I like to talk about is you’re not just sharing these videos. You’re hoping that the people you share the videos with will have the same kind of feelings that you do. That’s what makes the right kinds of videos really different from the kind of videos people don’t watch. You get to the emotional core. You get to the truth. You get to the authenticity and the vulnerability and that’s what people want to see from you.
Richard Rierson:Absolutely. Amen. You couldn’t have said it any better. I love that. I love it, love it, love it. That’s exactly what we talk about on this show. Authenticity, vulnerability and courage are the primary currencies for leadership and if you can get it done on video, if you can get it done on audio, however you need to do it, do those three things and the world will be a different place. Remember that.
Vern Oakley:Can I add one?
Richard Rierson:Sure.
Vern Oakley:Curiosity.
Richard Rierson:Oo. I like that. Curiosity. Yeah. That’s really good.
Vern Oakley:Because the best leaders are really curious and the best people on camera are curious because they come in and they want to go what’s going on.
Richard Rierson:Exactly.
Vern Oakley:The don’t want to come in and just fit in. They want to understand and that curiosity can lead to their growth and them being presenting the vulnerability, their courage and authenticity on camera.
Richard Rierson:I love it. Well that’s my big nugget for the day. You gave me something to add, another arrow to add to my quiver. That’s a good one. I like that. Curiosity. For sure. Well Vern this has been a pleasure. I love talking to you. I love what you’re doing. The books is “Leadership in Focus: Bringing out your best on camera.” I’m excited to dive into this. Man what an honor to have you on the show.
Vern Oakley:Thank you so much. What a great interview. I really enjoyed talking about this. I feel like we’re kindred spirits on the subject.
Richard Rierson:Yes sir. Amen to that. All right. Vern, thanks for coming on the show.
Vern Oakley:Thank you.
Richard Rierson:Hey thank you so much for tuning into the show. I hope you’re finding some great value in Daily Dose of Leadership. Go check out my website, Get your free access to some videos or to my free e-book. Also check out if you’re interested in one on one coaching, group coaching, seminars or needing somebody to speak at your next event. I’m always available. Check out more at Let me know where you’re at in your leadership journey. I’d love to hear from you. it’s a great way to get in touch with me. Find me on my Facebook page, LinkedIn, Twitter. Get in touch with me. Go make it a great one.

Sign up for The Slate: A Twice-a-Month Tip for Using Video to Achieve Your Business Goals.

“It’s one thing to understand the role of video in business communication, it’s another to know how to use video to solve actual business problems. Vern Oakley gets that.”


When you work with Tribe, you’ll get…