When we think about leadership, we usually picture political leaders who stand at podiums rallying crowds to support their causes; or athletes who spur their team to push their limits and try harder; or executives who develop strategies to help their colleagues edge out the competition.
Leaders wear many hats and bear many responsibilities. They help others do the right things, drive innovation and change, and build a new vision for a greater future for all. At the end of the day, leaders need to be dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.
And, according to this chart that was included in a great article by Sunnie Giles from the Harvard Business Review, one of the absolute most important leadership skills from around the world is an ability to communicate clearly with others.
So perhaps more than any other quality we’ve mentioned, leaders MUST be effective communicators. And that is precisely why public speaking is important for leadership. If you want to be a leader within your organization, you must be a good communicator, and to do that you need to abide by the “3 Cs.”
Public speaking is as much about challenging people’s perception of something as it is about introducing new ideas. It is also about challenging yourself.
Anyone who’s gotten up in front of a group of strangers and talked for half an hour knows how intimidating it can be. It takes nerves of steel to be a public speaker.
But when you challenge yourself to speak in front of an audience, over and over again, you increase your confidence. This makes it easier to face other challenges in your business life, like innovating new products or services, or approaching a new business partner.
And, when you are effective at challenging your audience’s ideas, then you have the power to challenge your team members’ ideas, about their own abilities and about the direction of the company.
Being a leader is challenging – literally.
Leaders Encourage Change
The art of persuasion – it’s important in business as well as public speaking. Challenging an opinion is the first step, but bringing about real and lasting change is the next.
In this way, encouraging change is the HOW of leadership. You challenge a colleague to change their mind about something and are successful. Now you’ve got to show them HOW to create lasting change. That means teaching them a new way to think, do and be.
Great public speakers don’t just talk, they teach. They ensure that each audience member has a new tool they can use to change their life or business for the better. It could be something as simple as instructing business owners on how to use social media more effectively, or something as profound as teaching recovering addicts how to stay committed to their new goals.
Encouraging change is a highly-prized skill, both at the podium and in a staff meeting. If you are self-aware enough to know you aren’t the greatest at teaching or instructing others, signing up for public speaking events can develop this much-needed skill.
This is the biggest “C” of them all.
One of the first things you’ll learn about being an effective public speaker is to share your humanity. Audience members don’t latch onto ideas so much as they latch on to people.
So many public speakers, when just starting out, try to be perfect instead of authentic. And what happens when you focus on being perfect? You come across as stiff and robotic. And usually when you try so hard not to screw up, you eventually screw up.
The same thing can happen to new leaders. They try so hard to be ‘leaders’ that they forget the most important thing, to be authentic people whose goal is to help the people around them be their best selves.
In order to be an effective public speaker AND leader, you have got to focus on connecting with the people you are trying to lead and inspire. If you speak to people in a way that is transparent and authentic, you will bring about change and innovation.
And, the best part is when you decide to stop focusing on being perfect or authoritative and start focusing on being human and connecting with other human beings, you will be amazed at how many people want to connect with you.
If you currently are a leader within your organization, or hope to be one day, we encourage you to follow this advice and recognize how public speaking can help you develop the communication skills you need to effectively lead.