Leaders have to be good speakers

Sirajuddin Aziz
March 30, 2020

My personal view is that there cannot be a dissenting opinion ever on this aspect and importance of its necessity and quality in a manager or leader. This quality or characteristic must be in attendance with all those, who are expected to lead or manage.

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My personal view is that there cannot be a dissenting opinion ever on this aspect and importance of its necessity and quality in a manager or leader. This quality or characteristic must be in attendance with all those, who are expected to lead or manage.

Speaking in public, is that an art, gifted naturally or is it a skill that can be acquired through training, handwork and practice? The simplest answer is that each and everybody can be professionally trained to express views with focus and clarity; some who have God-gifted oratory skills, only excel with practice. These two possibilities, that is training oneself and improving present skills are not mutually exclusive, in fact, the presence of one, can easily become the foothold to gain mastery, over the other. Experience and study indicates clearly that those who are voracious readers, by and large, are those who also speak well. Reading is the raw material for a good speech and speaker. It is only through reading extensively that an individual starts to find his/her reservoir of vocabulary. No speakers should be short on words.

A CEO, who is not a good speaker or does not possess basic skills of formulating a thought and then articulating it in simplest words to his audience, will prove to be a major disaster in the board room.

Presentations, multi-media or otherwise, inside or outside the board room can prove to be huge success or may land into a sea of disaster, should the speaker/presenter have no command over vocabulary, coupled with lack of adequate knowledge of the subject matter. It is painfully agonising, when presenters considers their audience, not to be in possession of the basic ability to read what’s shown on the screen, turns his back upon the audience and starts to read out his slides.

While I have, in fact as part of my experience witnessed those devoid of expertise on the subject get away with murder in their presentation, based purely on convincing vocabulary and confidence laced presentations skills and posture. This is certainly not a practice that is on offer as a recommendation; cited here only for impact, on the need for good library of words in the memory bank.

Think before you speak. Too much garbage or gibberish thoughts in speech only bring regrets. Repentance is the off-spring of verbal deluge from the mouth of any regardless of their intelligence. Speech that is in harness and in reins is a major sign of wisdom. Always apply, while speaking the maxim of Mark Twain, “…. a minimum sound to a maximum sense”. Speech must reflect sincerity. Deception, double-speak or needs of expediency should not be the hallmark of any speech.

Practice maketh a man perfect. You and I have written several essays at school on the subject. Winston Churchill was in the showers, when his butler startled at the sounds of a quarrel emanating from the rest room, knocked on the door and said, “ Pray, Sir, Sir, Is everything alright; I hear you shouting in a fighting mode?”.

Winston shouted back, “don’t worry, I am addressing the House of Commons”. Without getting into what he thought about those who then made up the Commons, the lesson here is, despite being an orator par excellence, he practiced his speeches.

Speaking within the confines of a conference room or outside of its precincts requires more than perfection. I recall with a dancing smile a comment I had read, sometime back, which said, “the extempore part of the speech should appear as extempore to the audience and not to the speaker himself”. It would be suicidal and a great fallacy of false confidence; and also of great jovial nuisance for the audience, for any speaker to walk up to the rostrum unprepared. Such soon become a laughing stock.

Vocabulary improvement methods are aplenty; first is reading across disciplines and second is to develop ability to narrate to others what one has read. The second ability is dependent on how good is the memory bank of an individual, and how good is the ability to re-call and fetch from the bank, a word or thought or story of the relevant subject, that is already embedded on the memory cells.

At a point during my teenage years I was on an everyday basis reading an average of 40,000 words; the problem was I could hardly retain 2000 or less. I improved retention by narration. Try it.

To speak in public, the need to be prepared beforehand cannot be underscored. No toil or hard work goes waste. Some prepare speeches and feel comfortable to read them out; while such method ensures continuity of thought and meets the test of what should be said sequentially, it is the lack of impact upon listeners, which goes against such method. To add to the woes of the audience, they (speakers) write what they are unable to sometimes decipher themselves, the consequence is massive confusion galore, amid muted laughter!

ZAB (The real Bhutto), our country’s best known orator used to be horribly miserable, when required to speak from a prepared speech, sticking to the text was painful for him. But he was at his best, when he wasn’t fettered by a given text; when the speaker speaks from his heart, it is obvious and that leads to creation of belief in what is being said, regardless, whether in actuality it is true or otherwise.

A former governor of a province, with whom I shared many a forum, moot and seminars, never came to any of them with any preparation. Taking full advantage of the fact, that protocol would require him to be the last speaker; he would usually arrive late for impact, but not so much, as to miss all speeches. He would listen to the speakers, and would start to write notes on available pads.

When his turn came to speak, he would spend a good time on virulent criticism on the earlier speakers and sometimes even venture to repudiate by challenging even the validity of their thoughts.

It used to be tortuous for the audience to bear with his antics; certainly he did not belong to being part of those illustrious politicians, who were great speakers, too.

A presentation/ speech by the CEO/ manager will have to be in the simplest language, sans jargons, easily understandable and yet possess profundity in substance. The message must be delivered directly with serenity. Remember to keep the audience in mind while preparing a speech or presentation.

Analyse the audience to know what would interest them; how intensively should the subject matter be handled; or conversely how much or what portion of the content should be of a generalised nature, etc. Do not let the instinct to speak, completely free; because done once, there is never peace. The expenditure of speech should remain subservient to the income of ideas; any reversal here, will lead to greater appreciation and envy of the dumb.

I have borrowed words of Ambrose Bierce to coin the following: One who speaks, and speaks incessantly, with no substance, is a person, who has his hand in your pocket, his tongue in your ear and his faith in your patience. Those who speak well, but speak mostly idiocy are more pain than pleasure, to lend our ears.

The writer is a freelance contributor



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