Do I have to be a good speaker to be a leader?
Essential but not a priority quality.
When I think of a leader, I often think of charismatic people who have the capacity (a kind of power in the end) to guide a group and to make them adhere to his or their ideas. All in a dynamic of sharing and listening of course (otherwise one turns on the concept of the sect… But we won’t polemic on this here).
In reality, I think a lot about the speakers at the TEDx conferences. These people tell us thrilling stories in a limpid way that we hang on their lips. That’s also how I see leaders.
But it seems to me that a leader is much more than a speaker.
Let’s focus on that ability to manage his language perfectly to engage the crowd.
How does speaking ability contribute to leadership?
1. Mastery of spoken language.
It goes through a specific vocabulary, you will agree. The trick is to stick to it throughout his speech.
You can take a humorous turn (to be handled with care depending on the subject) to lighten the speech (and the atmosphere…!). But also to captivate the attention. The tone used in humor is often rhythmic, punctuated and it must be said that it mobilizes our attention and our senses. If you can make your audience laugh, you are directly interacting with people.
And interaction means concentration but also a remembrance of the discourse more anchored in memory.
The tone can be more formal and neutral, without appearing totally uninterested. The key is to use strong words that appeal to the emotions.
The image of a leader is still one of a person who literally lives his or her speech. He or she must emanate certain confidence so that people believe in his or her speech and the ideas conveyed as much as he or she does.
A certain kind of mimicry in the end.
2. The Art of storytelling.
We learn at school that to tell a story you need a handful of main characters and a few secondary characters. If we play good students, we will follow a narrative structure to do so, and that is exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.
The Five-Point Narrative Structure
Not every writer has the same way of working. Some prefer to write by ‘the seat of their pants’ (a so-called ‘pantser’)…
The trick is to have a guideline so you don’t get lost in your speech. It must be clear, easy to understand, and captivating. It can be fun to lose the spectator and then find him or her again (if not, hello frustration…), or you can take the risk of taking funny falls to leave a lasting impression. Many tips can be found in the book developed by TED on the subject.
3. This aspiration to inspire.
Because we want to look like our peers, we adopt mimicry. This is one of the reasons why biographies are successful. Because they immerse us in the universe of the person who fascinates us so much (and if we can take some tips in passing to resemble him…).
A leader must constantly question his or her ability to inspire and how to do so (healthily).
To do this, it is essential to have a certain emotional intelligence, which in particular calls for empathy. A leader understands his audience, and that’s why his words are so penetrating: it’s because he shares the same issues and obstacles as his audience.
It is his optimistic (not always, but still), confident and ambitious side that will lead a person, a team, a crowd to follow him in his approach. It’s his or her ability to propose concrete solutions, but above all, solutions that are in line with the problem at hand.
There is nothing worse than a leader who is out of touch with reality, isn’t it? (Is he really a leader in this case?).
The importance of mastering non-verbal communication as a leader.
1. When trust goes through posture (and vice versa).
Posture is a big part of my life. It is my past through my education with the famous “stand up straight”, my present with a posture that does not satisfy me and certainly does not reflect what I would like of my personality, and it is my future by being a path of constant improvements to reach the grace and confidence that it exudes.
Posture and confidence indeed are inexorably linked. In fact, the book I am reading speaks about the Alexander technique. The creator of this ‘technic” warns us about this close-downplayed link. I recommend it because it emphasizes a way of standing upright other than forcing one’s shoulders backward (spoiler alert: it’s ineffective and counterproductive). On the other hand, he also talks about how our thoughts interfere with our posture and how to improve them in a beautiful dynamic.
2. The panoply of gestures.
Sometimes used excessively, sometimes too little, it is difficult to gauge whether our gestures during a speech are due to stress or if they are intended to support what we are saying.
In any case, gestures must be precise and measured during a speech. Otherwise, one risks being seen as hysterical and not in control of our body and our space. It would be a shame after all the dedication and energy in this beautiful speech.
Gestures are an asset to support what is being said accurately, not to lose the viewer. They animate the speech and make it come alive to always captivate the attention as much as possible.
Gestures reflect (enormously) the personality of the speaker and his or her ease at a given moment. This is why being aware of his tics is essential to diminish them, but above all to control them in the long term and to show them more fluidly in his dialogues.
I wanted to focus today only on the ability to express ourselves orally as a leader and how to do so, from my humble point of view.
But a leader is distinguished by many other aspects. This can be through a particular character trait (Anna Wintour, for example, is reputed to have a strong and authoritative character), disruptive (I am thinking here of Elon Musk), or forward-looking (the immortal Steve Jobs). And so on, of course.
There are hundreds of leadership qualities. The trick is to find yours and make your personality and your ideas show through in your ambition.
If confidence, a spirit of adventure, and a certain emotional intelligence are there, why not try to look like our favorite leaders?