What Great Leaders and Orators Know


leadership, Clinton as orator, storytelling

Forget your politics; there is a lot we can learn from President Clinton as an orator. President Clinton knows how to give a speech. He does it by talking to each person individually – focusing his eyes on theirs - no matter how large an audience he has. President Clinton also recognizes the value in telling a good story. People want to listen to someone who makes what they’re saying interesting and valuable to them. That is, what a leader says must be put into context for each individual person. The bottom line is “what’s in it for me?”

Is being a great orator the first step toward becoming a great leader? Or is it a chicken and egg problem?

Some of us are born leaders others are made – or so the saying goes. The first question is what makes a leader? The second question is what makes a great leader? We each know the importance listening plays in leading; we also know a leader must be able to communicate - to talk to others in a way that their ideas are understood so they can be supported in their efforts to act on their ideas.

President Clinton knows how to do this. A leader tells stories; stories that relate to listeners. Then, without asking for support or agreement, gets it. This is great leadership through storytelling and oration. Along with this, a leader and great orator shows enthusiasm, postiveness and empathy. This builds trust because they are believable. They are talking to you. They are relating to your interests and needs and they are excited about it. This is how leaders get others to listen and get them onboard with their agenda.

Clearly, we know there are many characteristics of leadership. So what makes a leader and what makes a leader great? Leadership is evolving. It no longer focuses on the leader as a star who is at the top. Possibly it begins with an ability to listen, understand, and synthesize information and varying opinions and culminates with great storytelling presentations. What we do know, is leadership is about inclusion and being self-effacing. A leader brings others together to build cohesion through mutual interest and passion that creates a team that wants to work together.

Giving great presentations is not a talent limited to the few. Like leadership it is a skill that can be learned and improved through deliberate practice.

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