It’s not about being loud: good leaders can communicate with a whisper and still be heard.
If you think about the greatest leaders the world has ever seen, throughout history, you’ll realize that all of them were excellent speakers. They knew how to communicate a message that resonated with the audience they were seeking to reach.
When it comes to being a leader, the ability to speak with authority, gain your audience’s trust and have them not only hear but actually feel your message, is essential. Reaching people at a visceral level is the only way to motivate them towards action.
1.Be clear and specific
A speaker will lose an audience, whether communicating to a small group around a table or delivering an address to a packed hall, if they are not clear, concise and specific. Using a lot of jargon, trying to communicate too many ideas at a time, talking about things that aren’t relevant to the audience in question… these are all ways that a message gets lost in translation. If you can’t get to the point and reach your audience quickly, you have little chance of them taking in your message.
2. Be open to opposition
Before you can convince a person that your message is right, you need to be willing to listen to their perhaps opposing point of view. If you aren’t open to the possibility of change or altering your thinking, you are demonstrating that you can’t see things from the point of view of those you are speaking with. Closed mindedness is never a good thing, but when you are trying to get people to listen to you and embrace your message, it’s even more limiting.
Here’s a great example where Steve Jobs—a man noted for his ability to inspire with his speaking—responded to a very critical question: <INSERT VIDEO HERE: https://youtu.be/FF-tKLISfPE >
3. Drop the ego and listen
A true leader understands that communication is often as much about not talking and instead listening to what others have to say. Authenticity comes from trust and people will trust you more if you’re willing to hear them and respond fairly to whatever it is that they have to say. If you focus on what your audience wants and needs to learn / know, you will find it easier to reach them. If you focus solely on what you think they need to know, you will have a harder time reaching them.
4. Be knowledgeable
The worst speaker, or leader, is the one who speaks without knowing, without understanding what they are talking about. You cannot get people to trust you, let alone follow you, if you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about it. This isn’t a place where you can ‘fake it until you make it’. Genuine knowledge lends gravitas to any speech, whether to three people, or three thousand.
Essential personal attributes and examples of speakers who demonstrate them
- Decency — this comes back to the authenticity and trust I mentioned earlier. Speakers who walk the walk, and not just talk the talk, will get a lot more traction with their words. Examples? The Dalai Lama and Mahatma Gandhi.
- Performance Quality — it’s not just about the words. The ability to perform and leave the audience feeling as if they’ve been witness to something valuable is important. Examples? Martin Luther King Jr. His ‘I have a dream’ speech is still today one of the most famous in history. Or John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. Who wasn’t moved by that?
- Humility — the ability to connect with your audience in a real way. The best example of this? Mister Rogers. Yes, he was communicating to children, but he was also effective in communicating to the United States Senate, when he spoke to save his show’s funding, as shown in “Mr. Rogers and the Power of Persuasion” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DGdDQrXv5U)
There is no doubt that the power to persuade others to support your way of thinking, your ideas and your beliefs is an essential tool in leadership. With practice and study, it’s a tool that everyone can acquire and hone over time.
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