HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Todd Dewett captured the crowd from the start.
He didn’t look like what you’d expect a keynote speaker at the Jan. 31-Feb. 2 Global Organic Produce Expo in Hollywood, Fla., to look like — a place filled with growers, packers and other professionals in the industry of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Show your ink,” said Dewett in a talk emphasized by a flurry of large gestures broadcasting the tattoos climbing up his forearms. He stood at the edge of the stage as close to the audience as possible in his Doc Martens-style black shoes with bold yellow stitching, tortoise-shell glasses, shaved head and solid black shirt.
Dewett is a professional speaker, former management professor, Harley-Davidson nut and author of the book, “Show Your Ink: Stories about Leadership and Life.”
“This is going to work for you, and here’s why: People like real. Now, as a scientist I knew this was true; we like authenticity. It’s a hook in writing and speaking that I get to use to speak about authenticity in relationships,” Dewett said.
Dewett also brought up things professionals often don’t talk about publicly: As a young adult, he resented his father for his alcoholism. When his father emerged from rehab, Dewett didn’t trust the authenticity of his father’s positive transformation.
But it was real. And his father won him over and taught him how you can lead by example. When his father was diagnosed with a rare, incurable cancer 12 years later, he showed Dewett how a positive, grateful perspective can improve the quality of your life and relationships, and maybe even extend that life.
To be a good leader, you have to stop posturing, get over yourself, learn from your mistakes and figure out who you are, Dewett said. Stop trying to get people to like you. “It’s a horrible prescription for mediocrity,” he said. “Earn your team’s respect instead.”
Dewett delivered his message by weaving together several anecdotes — some funny, some serious and some embarrassing.
There are many circumstances in work and in life that we can’t control, but we can control how we think about those circumstances, Dewett said.
Dewett recalled a comment about handling adverse events that his father made, a comment that changed his life and his work: “How I choose to think and feel about it is clearly and wholly up to me. I choose to be happy.”