Cy Wakeman

Cy Wakeman is a drama researcher, global thought-leader, and New York Times best-selling author who is recognized for cultivating a counter-intuitive, reality-based approach to leadership. Backed by over 25 years of unparalleled experience, Wakeman’s philosophy offers a new lens through which employees and executives alike, can shift their attention inward, sharpen their focus on personal accountability, and uncover their natural state of innovation simply by ditching the drama.

Deemed “the secret weapon to restoring sanity to the workplace,” Wakeman has helped companies such as Google, Facebook, Viacom, NIH, the CDC, Uber, NBC Universal, NASA, Pfizer, Johns Hopkins, Stanford Health Care, Keurig Dr. Pepper, AMC Theatres, White Castle, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and countless others learn to navigate our rapidly changing world using good mental processes to harness energy wasted in workplace drama and reinvest that effort into achieving profound business results.

As a highly sought-after conference headliner, Cy Wakeman holds a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speaker’s Association, placing her within the top 3% of speakers. She’s been featured on the TODAY Show, the AskGaryVee Show with Gary Vaynerchuk, Cheddar TV, The New York Times, Business Insider, The Daily Muse, and many more. Cy Wakeman was voted in the top 100 leadership professionals to follow on twitter for 7 years in a row. In 2021 and 2022, she topped the Global Gurus list of Top 30 Leadership Professionals across the globe, coming in at #1.

Wakeman has published three books, the latest of which is No Ego: How to Cut the Cost of Drama, End Entitlement and Drive Big Results (2017). Cy also hosts her own No Ego podcast, a Facebook Watch show, Life’s Messy, Live Happy, and adds weekly video content on YouTube to address leaders’ biggest challenges in the workplace. For more information, please visit or follow Cy on social at @cywakeman.

Formal Education

  • Bachelors Degree, Political Science, Drake University (1987)
  • Bachelors Degree, Social Work, Briar Cliff University (1991)
  • Masters Degree, Health Administration, Clarkson College (1994)

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Speech Topics & Descriptions

No Ego: How leaders Can Cut the Cost of Drama, End Entitlement and Drive Big Results

Recent research conducted by Cy Wakeman in conjunction with the Futures Company, has discovered that rather than driving performance and creating efficiencies for the organization, conventional leadership strategies and philosophies are actually fueling drama in the workplace. In fact, research indicated that under currently prescribed leadership philosophy and strategic best practices, up to three months per year of each employee’s time – potentially billions of dollars annually in the U.S. alone – is wasted in drama. In this session, Cy proposes a radically different approach to core leadership philosophies such as engagement, change management, and accountability. Join Cy as she calls leadership professionals to redefine HR and leadership with science and research and to teach leaders strategies and tools that will actually work in their modern workplace.

Reality-Based Leadership™: Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace and Turn Excuses into Results

These are challenging times in our businesses today. In leadership, we must become willing to admit that the ways in which we have taught leaders to lead over the years is simply not working. These times are calling for a new type of leader, one who can bring peace, sanity, and results back to the workplace! In this session, Cy rocks audiences as she teaches the key principles of her new wave of Reality-Based Leadership™.

Business Readiness – Ensuring Our Teams are Ready for What’s Next

In this high energy session, Cy Wakeman will help leaders understand their heightened responsibilities in delivering teams and talent that are ready for what’s next along with strategies to ensure that teams able to quickly adapt and change and deliver on the needs of the organization to provide relevant, high- value, services in even mature markets. After all, change is only hard for the unready.

Hardwiring Accountability into Your Workforce

Everyone is talking about accountability, but few organizations are actually successful in ensuring that personal accountability is hardwired into their talent and everyday business operations. Join Cy as she breaks down the core competency of personal accountability and gives you no nonsense, workable strategies to hire for, coach for, and develop for accountability in your workforce! After all, personal accountability is the foundation of Reality Based Leadership™ – a revolution in leadership.

Employee Engagement is Broken: Unlocking the True Driver of Employee Performance

For years, our organizations have been investing time, money and energy into engaging our employees based on the promise that engagement drives results. While engaging our employees is critical, it turns out that engagement isn’t enough. Engagement without accountability is chaos. In this dynamic, provocative and groundbreaking presentation, you will be introduced to the concept of Reality-Based Engagement, where accountability and engagement intersect to produce awesome results. This will include some practical guidance for how to cultivate the power of personal accountability within your organization.


Introducing two new webinars for leaders and teams relevant to our world today. And while the webinars are new, online training is not new to Reality-Based Leadership, having delivered virtual and live on-line training for over ten years.

FOR LEADERS: Leading in Uncertainty and Crisis

Many of us are focused on how to “get through” the current pandemic so we can get back to business as usual. For Reality-Based leaders, the work at hand is about greatness – how to not only survive the daily in these times but to ensure that your team comes through this crisis better for it, evolved by it, and changed from it.

What you will take away from this session:

This session will outline the role of a leader in profound uncertainty, capturing hearts and minds, keeping teams and individuals focused on the work at hand, all the while ensuring that the forces that will evolve your team and team members is not curtailed.
Cy will interrupt your current thinking and provide tips and techniques to make sure that your team is impacted – but not traumatized – by recent events and that you are leveraging current times to build resilience in your teams and to recreate the way you work in the future.

FOR TEAMS: Finding Peace, Happiness, and Greatness in Transformative Times

In the midst of extreme challenges and disruption, peace, happiness, or greatness quickly start to seem like an impossibility. As humans, we quickly fall prey to the belief that we can’t succeed in circumstances like these and many buy in to the belief that our new normal is one of stress, anxiety, conflict, and suffering. We throttle down to settle for just “getting through” and surviving until things get back to the way things were before.

But what if we had the power to invoke another side of our uniquely human nature? And that part of our human nature is evolution. What if it didn’t have to be a time of stress and anxiety but instead a time of peace, reflection, growth, and adaption? Good news – it can be different. Even better news, at Reality-Based Leadership we know how to make it different.

We all have far more power over our experiences than we claim. Even in the toughest situations each of us can determine whether we are impacted or traumatized and whether our approaches and responses help or hinder our desired results. In fact, how one person experiences these times has a lot more to do with their mindsets, skillsets, habits, and strategies they are deploying than the actual circumstances we are facing.

What you will take away from this session:

This session is designed to help each participant take a quick inventory of their current experience and learn new techniques, strategies, and concepts that are easy to implement and can immediately shift mindsets to one of peace in the present, and resilience in the future. If you are wondering how you can best support your teams through this crisis, here is a unique reminder of just how much positive impact they can have to succeed despite the challenging reality at hand.

What people are saying

“Cy is consistently the highest-rated speaker at any event we host. This is especially notable when one considers the caliber of speakers who present at Women Lead Change events! She is also a speaker that provides ongoing opportunities for development, beyond her keynote. It is not uncommon for us to hear from organizations who use her books, podcasts, and videos as regular components to staff meetings and employee resource groups long after the conference.”

CEO, Women Lead Change

“Cy’s virtual presentation was a gift to our very exhausted audience of nurse leaders. Her message was spot-on, providing pearls of wisdom and actionable tools that participants could immediately begin using in their day-to-day work as they press on through such challenging times.  We could not have asked for a better speaker for a virtual format where our audience felt as though they were in the same room with her and each other.”

CEO, Synova Associates LLC

“Cy provided incredible value to our leaders during her virtual session. Her reality-based philosophies are always relevant, but particularly useful as we navigate the challenges of leading at a distance.”

Chief Communications & Marketing Officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield

“All I can say is – WOW! Yesterday was my first time hearing Cy Wakeman present. I’ve heard amazing things to date about her; most of the reviews I heard were from folks who read her books or heard her live. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as our presentation was virtual. She was amazing! The audience – including myself – was incredibly engaged, and Cy made the entire presentation very interactive with two-way dialogue and chats. Cy made the presentation’s content personal at times, which made her seem so familiar and relatable. I can’t say it enough – Cy was engaging, fun, creative, smart and so powerful! I know she made an impact on me and so many others!”

Director, Clinical Operations, Ascension Via Christi Health
“Thank you for the impact you have had on me. Last year at Herman Miller, Inc. the East delivered a record year. My team is stronger and better leaders as a result of me working on my leadership… with you! Thank you. I also wanted to share how helpful your podcasts and YouTube videos are to create the adjustment in my thinking when I digress. I had a week this week where I did not step up, so I spent the morning re-watching your work. I am back thinking of the all possibilities of creating great and enabling my team to share in that work.”
Vice President Sales-East, HermanMiller

“What a privilege to have you in Charlotte last week! Your message of ditch the drama, your ego is not your amigo, and how to check our stories was so impactful to our teams. The group you spoke to is highly diverse and yet your message resonated in a uniform and profound way. A ‘home run’ said one of my key teammates. I am grateful you made the trip and that you seamlessly wove the issues we are facing into your discussion. Onward we go…but in REALITY!”

Head of Wholesale Credit, Bank of America

“This is the most effective, productive and practical solution any business leader would want. I cannot tell you how much money, time and emotional waste has been saved because of Cy’s philosophy. She can transform any culture to help the willing revolutionize consistent and constant change.”

CEO Anaplan, Former CFO Red Hat and Cisco

“The response from our HR community has been overwhelming. They loved your message, and I think the whole experience provided a much-needed energy boost. The day exceeded my expectations, and it was the perfect launch to my new role – setting a new tone for our HR community.”

CHRO, NBCUniversal Media, LLC