Are public speaking skills critical to leadership success?
Before starting my own business, I worked for a global performance improvement company. As the new Director of Business Solutions, it was my responsibility to lead a team of consultants who were responsible for uncovering clients’ business problems and crafting performance improvement solutions to solve these problems. One day, during our weekly discussions, my manager said to me, “Leslie, when something goes wrong, you need to learn to look directly in the mirror. When some-thing goes right, you need to learn to look out the window.”I am motivated by success. As an individual contributor, what motivated me was being rewarded and recognized for my accomplishments. I didn’t understand why, in my new role, I was no longer as motivated. All it took was 10 seconds...10 seconds of hearing some very powerful words, to transform my thinking. Yes, as Robert Millward (2007) reinforces throughout his article, Leaders Understand the Power of Words, words are powerful and can transform our thinking. The 28 words spoken by my manager transformed my thinking. It only took 10 seconds to experience one of the greatest “ah-has” of my career. I was no longer in the individual contributor role whereI could rely on being rewarded and recognized for my personal accomplishments; it was now about my team. I had to view my success through my team and take personal responsibility for my team’s failures. As an Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychologist and human resources (HR) professional who earns a living helping organizations improve the performance of leaders, whenI read Millward’s (2007) article, I immediately began to think about the leadership implications. I began to ask myself the same questions that nag at me on a daily basis as I work with my clients: Who is a leader? Are public speaking skills critical to leadership success? Why don’t all leaders demonstrate good public speaking skills? What can we do to improve the public speaking skills of our leaders?
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