Leadership Speech

Leadership speech. A simple guide to speaking without fear to the people you need to lead.

Two Stunning Examples

These two examples from political leaders in trying times can remind you what it's all about. Notice that neither was a prepared speech.

In April 1968 Robert Kennedy spoke from the back of a flatbed truck just after Martin Luther King was assassinated. His audience had not yet heard the news. He spoke in such a way that there was no rioting in that city that night, unlike what occurred in most others across the country. He spoke of the need for compassion, understanding, love ... in short exactly what Martin Luther King stood for. His leadership from the podium, and also behind the scenes that night, prevented enraged blacks from venting their grief and pain in a destructive way. When you view the footage you can see the speech he had intended to deliver held in his hands, but unused.

In September 2001 Rudi Guilliani spoke in a press conference just after the 9/11 attacks in New York. When asked how many were dead in the twin towers, he neither dodged the question, nor gave a cold factual reply. Instead he sighed and said "I don't know what the final number will be, but it will be more than we can bear."

The Lessons

What can we learn about effective leadership speech from these examples?

  1. Empathy. They understood exactly how their audience was feeling. And they spoke to those feelings rather than dealing in facts.
  2. Heartfelt. They showed they were human just like their audience. They spoke without notes as you do in a real conversation.
  3. Clear. Their audience was in no doubt whatsoever how each man felt. In a way both were calling for the people to do the same thing ... act with dignity and rise above their animal instincts in a time of great stress.

The old well-worn saying rings trues for any speaker wanting to lead others "We don't care how much you know, until we know how much you care."

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