Leadership is Communication

Leadership is having the skills that make people want to follow you. Compare this to dictators, who coerce people to follow them. A manager or administrator can be either a leader or a dictator. Regardless or your leadership style, the person who is supposed to lead a group must be a good communicator.

In WWII, there were three men known for their communicating skills: Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Before the War in Europe began, author William Shirer, who wrote, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, visited a friend in Germany who invited him to attend one of Hitler’s speeches in Nuremburg. There in that vast, open-air assembly were upwards of one million gathered to hear Hitler. As Mr. Shirer stood, nearly shoulder to shoulder with the crowd, he began thinking how deceived these masses were, but as the speech came to a close, the mighty crowd began to chant in cadence, “Heil Hitler, heil Hitler.” Their right arms would thrust forward in a salute and as Shirer gazed out, he heard a voice he recognized shouting the chant with the crowd. It was his own voice and at the same time, he watched his own right arm thrust out from his body in salute to the “little corporal” with the mustache. He was stunned that his own body and spirit had been commandeered by the speech and was reacting in sync with the masses. It was then, that Shirer realized the near hypnotic power of Hitler’s speeches and he knew that Hitler would lead the nation into a dreaded war, in which this group of people would follow him.

When Germany attacked Britain in a massive air attack the day after in September of 1940, England was completely unprepared. One man stood to rally the people of England and with his powerful oratory he stiffened the spine of the nation and rallied a spirit that many thought did not exist. A small band of air warriors succeeded in turning back the waves of the German Luftwaffe. Many historians think it was the speeches of Winston Churchill that indirectly defeated the German attack on England.

When Japan infamously attacked Pearl Harbor, it was FDR who rallied the spirit of courage in the American soul to rise up and defend democracy. His weekly Fireside Chats gave hope and instilled courage into every home as they gathered around their radios to hear his calming and strong voice.

All great leaders throughout history – whether in business, politics, religion or education – have all been great communicators.

I mentioned in my first blog in the Leadership series that leadership is vision. And that vision must be communicated, whether it is to rally a nation for war or to rally the team to hit the sales’ goals for the month. And how that vision is communicated may well determine whether that nation or that business survives. Wise leaders understand this. Steve Jobs was one of the early CEO’s to understand that he needed to promote the new products personally, that his voice would set the tone and energy for the entire year.

Communication is the transfer of passion from the heart and mind of a leader to the heart and mind of their teams. Speaking cannot be purely cerebral, because vision is not purely cerebral. Speaking cannot be purely emotion because vision is not purely emotion. Vision is an idea that has ignited inside a leader and successfully communicating that vision is when it burns in the hearts and minds of others.



1. Powerful speaking comes from preparation as well as your imagination. There are times to speak off-the-cuff, but never neglect a thoroughly well-prepared outline. Capture the fire in your heart and put it into a solid outline that allows you to rekindle that fire when you stand before the audience. The purpose of an outline is to remind you of how you felt about the idea you are presenting when you first decided to tell it. I don’t recommend writing out every word. I don’t want you chained to your lectern notes. I want you free to speak to the audience. But key phrases along with the stories you want to tell can all be written down with just key words and short underlined phrases. I always hand write my outlines rather than typing them because it reveals more about my personality to myself when I’m speaking.

2. Speak with authority, not in question marks. End your sentences with a downward tone, not an upward tone. Listen to famous speakers like Walter Cronkite and copy his dramatic tonal inflections. He captured the American spirit and was the most trusted newsman in the nation. That was not by accident. Authority means tone. Authority means eye contact. Authority means looking at your audience one person at a time as you speak.

3. Speak not only what you know, but what you believe. You are not a talking encyclopedia.

4. Preach your message, don’t lecture. You are an evangelist for the gospel of your business. Don’t treat it like a classroom. Treat it like a sermon that comes from your heart.

5. Prepare your opening statements and your closing statements especially well. Memorize your first couple statements so you can look directly at the listeners and gain their attention from the beginning.

6. Tell stories. This is a great way to start and end a speech. Stories put flesh on the bones of an idea.

7. Speak to the back row. If those farthest from you can hear you and see you and feel part of your delivery, the rest of the crowd certainly will. Too many speakers address only a small portion of the crowd near the front. Big mistake.

8. Be an “enlarged” you. You must understand that you are not having a table talk. When you speak to a crowd, your gestures, facial expressions, your projection of your personality must be magnified. Some friends/coworkers may be surprised at your enlarged persona, but that is good. You don’t want people to be underwhelmed.

9. Know when to end. Too many speakers are like pilots who can’t seem to find the runway. The motto for a good speech is this: Stand up. Speak up. Shut up.

10. Invite the audience to join you on the journey. Every speech should have a hook. Something that pulls the listener in and makes them believe in what you’re saying.


Practice alone in your office or wherever you can. Be dramatic and role-play without worry of who hears you. Then when on stage let that performance fully come out. Don’t be afraid to show your heart and to modulate your voice. Monotone deliveries are very boring. And boring is death to a speaker. If you are not excited about what you are saying, neither will your audience.

Remember: the crowd wants you to succeed. The crowd is pulling for you to rouse them. Make their attendance more than worth their while.