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E143 | Why Your Swagger Is Something You Already Have with Leslie Ehm

If you lack confidence, or you’re faking it ‘til you make it, don’t miss the Queen of Swagger, Leslie Ehm, on this week’s episode of The Melting Pot. 

From TV host to advertising executive to training guru for some of the biggest global brands such as Disney and Uber, Leslie has had a few careers in her time. Today, she is a full time Swagger Coach. 

“Your swagger is not something external to you. It is something that you already have. And it will manifest differently in every different human being. There is not one prescribed way to have swagger.”

But the episode isn’t all about swagger. Leslie also talks about swearing and why swearing is actually important, and why people who swear are smarter and happier than those that don’t, and why you should ignore those who tell you not to swear.

“It’s not that their ears are going to melt off, or that their brain is going to malfunction. It’s that they’re trying to impose their levels of acceptance on you.”

She also discusses what business leaders can do to lead with swagger and what they can do to build psychological safety in their organisation. 

This is a truly cracking episode, full of energy and with some top book recommendations too. We really enjoyed this conversation. We know you will too. 

On today’s podcast:

  • From Montreal to London to Toronto 
  • Founding Combustion
  • From no BS training to Swagger Coach
  • Learning confidence
  • The benefits of swearing
  • Why leaders need to create psychological safety


Why Leslie Ehm’s Super Power Is Swagger

“Your swagger is not something external to you. It is something that you already have. And it will manifest differently in every different human being. There is not one prescribed way to have swagger.”

Leslie Ehm has swagger by the boat load. So much so, she wrote the book on it, literally – Swagger: Unleash Everything You Are And Become Everything You Want. From TV host to advertising Creative Director to training guru, Leslie is fuelled by an unrelenting passion to unleash true human potential. She’s worked with thousands of professionals from CEOs to new grads, and trained organisations like Google, Disney and Uber. 

Leslie really does walk the walk when it comes to being a Swagger Coach, she is the embodiment of swagger. 

From TV to advertising to training

After realising she didn’t want to be famous in London, she turned her hand to advertising in Canada, with one of the biggest ad agencies in the country. But when she felt like she was using her superpowers for evil instead of good, she knew it was time to pivot again. 

She quit her job and started a training company. 

“[Her husband said] but Leslie, you hate training. And you’re untrainable. I said, right? Who better than someone like me to start a training company? Because if I can create experiences for someone like me, then I might be onto something.”

And onto something she was. That was 14 years ago and that training company went on to become Combustion. Positioning themselves as the no BS training company. 

“We’ve travelled the world many times over delivering training to countless organisations. We developed and delivered Google’s global marketer training programme. We’ve worked with TD Bank, RBC, Lenovo, PepsiCo, Disney.”

Their mantra is ‘training doesn’t have to suck’, and they’ve learned that you can’t force people to learn, it has to penetrate their brains. You have to create experiences that prove the value of the knowledge you just gave them. And that’s where her creative background comes in useful. 

“And the kind of training that we do is so viral that I never, for my company Combustion, never once had to do any marketing. My entire business was built by referral or word of mouth, the whole business.”

From training to coaching

Having spent so long training high level execs in these powerful companies, Leslie came to the realisation that everybody in the professional world has one issue in common:

“And that was that they did not believe that who they were authentically was good enough to bring them the success that they were dreaming up. They did not believe that they could reveal who they really were, and still achieve their goals.”

This to Leslie was unthinkable. This was the opposite of what she knew to be true. And she found her true calling – she had to change people’s minds, to make them see the opposite. 


And so she wrote Swagger to help as many people as she could. 

“I’m such an empath. And I understand that my knowledge and my personal power can help them to get to that better place. So I was like, how do I use this in the most effective way possible, but there was a little caveat in my head. Because I didn’t want to write a book that was going to just be this fluffy, fluffy, inspirational, you can do it girlfriend, go get it.”

And the book most definitely is not that. 

Swagger is the paper version of Leslie herself. When you read it, it feels like she’s standing in front of you, helping you walk through the steps she lays out, teaching you the methodology for unleashing your swagger in your own unique way. 

“The way that I have redefined swagger is the ability to manifest who you really are, and hold on to it in the face of all of that psychological crap, that’s going to try and come forward regardless of the situation or environment.”


The thing that most people seek is confidence, says Leslie. And what they do to try and get it is to fake it until they make it. But this is wrong. 

“When you fake it till you make it, the thing you’re trying to fake is confidence. And by definition, you limit your ability to gain confidence, because the only way that you can experience legitimate confidence is through competence.”

The key, says Leslie, is to own where you are in your journey. Don’t kid yourself. Everyone on this planet started from a place of not knowing. Everyone had to go through the motions of learning and practicing to get experience. 

Her advice? Find someone who is an expert and ask them for help. 

“Sit at their feet, and you say hello, very smart and wise and wonderful human. Might you be so gracious as to share your wisdom with me? Because you clearly know more than I do. And I would appreciate it just, and I would pay it forward and I would reciprocate any way that I could.”


Swearing is one of those things that people judge us for, says Leslie. But swearing is part of the human expression, and when you stifle someone’s expression, they lose a part of their language, it’s inauthentic. It’s not about your ears being offended, says Leslie, it’s a mechanism of asserting control. 

“It’s not that their ears are going to melt off, or that their brain is going to malfunction. It’s that they’re trying to impose their levels of acceptance on you.”

And the thing is, says Leslie, there’s been a ton of research to suggest that swearing is actually a powerful coping mechanism. And that people who swear freely are more, not less, intelligent than their non-swearing counterparts.

Leadership advice 

Leaders were not born leaders, says Leslie, they became leaders. And any leader whose primary focus is not their people, shouldn’t be a leader. 

“We all know that the leaders that we respected and gravitated to and admired and even loved were the ones who, what you saw was what you got. And you could go to them and have a frank discussion. You didn’t feel judged by them. You knew that they had your best interests at heart.”

And yet so many leaders, when they get in a position of authority, they forget this. They lose their swagger. 

“As a leader, you should have little or less tolerance for inauthenticity, for infighting, for judgement, for lack of psychological safety, you should have no time for that.”

Because if you’re paying for 100% of an employee and they’re only bringing 60% of themselves to work because they’re scared to reveal the other 40%, you’re getting short changed. 

“If you can create an environment of psychological safety, the rest of those parts and I think they’re the best and the juiciest parts, the most unique parts, the greatest differentiating parts, those parts will start to come out and play. And then you’re truly unleashing the potential in your people. And that is smart money.”

Book recommendations

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