LEADERSHIP IN BUSINESS

The Business Leader As Communicator

“Inhabiting the full body, the long body, as many North American Native traditions say, with the voice, may be one of the great soul challenges of adult life.”

– David Whyte, The Heart Aroused

In the film, “The King’s Speech,” in a moment of exasperation, the king, who has a speech impediment, says to his speech therapist: “Listen to me!” And the therapist responds: “Listen to you? By what right?” “By Divine right, if you must. I’m your king.” “No, you’re not. You told me so yourself. You said you didn’t want it. Why should I waste my time listening – ” “Because I have a right to be heard… I have a voice!”

We all have a right to be heard. And we all have a voice. But for many of us something happens when we speak in public: we lose contact with our voice. I was teaching a presentation class to a group of leadership trainees. On the first day at the first break, a participant approached me and asked if she could speak with me in private. We went into another room and sat down at a table.

     “I don’t know if I can do this,” she confided nearly in tears.

     “Why not?”

     “It’s too frightening.”

     “Well, you know you don’t have to take this class.”

     “No, I do. If I want to be promoted to supervisor, I have to know how to make presentations.”

     “OK then. How about if for your first presentation you were to sit in a chair beside the podium with your presentation written out on a sheet of paper, and all you have to do is sit there in front of the group and read it? Would you be willing to do that?”

     “Sure, I could do that,” she said immensely relieved.

     

So she did her first presentation sitting down and read what she had to say. For her second presentation, I asked, as she was preparing, if she would again write her content out, but this time stand behind the podium and as before read what she had written. She agreed to give that a try. Eventually, on her fourth and final class presentation, she stood in front of the podium, with note cards, and presented her material like a pro. When she had finished her talk, she cried with joy, and the rest of the group, who had witnessed her courage every step of the way, applauded enthusiastically.