Communication is the greatest gift we have. It’s the cornerstone to defining a great leader. You can’t be a leader if you are unable to communicate effectively. I grew up listening to the greatest speakers of our times. Listening to them and thinking with them was the defining influence in my life. Demosthenes once said, “As a vessel is known by the sound, whether it be cracked or not; so men are proved by their speeches whether they be wise or foolish.” This is not only for professional speakers. We communicate in various speeches hundreds of time everyday across a wide variety of audiences.
My father used to repeat a communication story in his speech, The Price of Leadership
. It was the story of the young minister preparing to give his first sermon. He could see so clearly everyone’s sins, everyone’s mistakes, and he knew how simple it would be to set them all straight once he
got to the pulpit. He could hardly wait for the big day when he could lower the boom on the congregation. Finally, the day came; he rose for the great occasion, strode down the aisle with great dignity and purpose, ascended the altar and head held high, and began preaching the greatest sermon the congregation would ever hear! But after a few minutes, he realized he was in trouble. He began to sense that maybe he wasn’t the hope of the world. After a few more minutes, he began to wish he’d never hear do preaching, and that there was a trap door behind the pulpit he could slip through and duck out of sight. After five minutes, which felt like five hours, he said a hasty benediction. With his head hung, he sulked from the pulpit, discouraged, broken and beaten. As he walked to the rear, an old white haired war-horse slipped his arm across the boy’s shoulders and said, “Son, IF YOU’D HAVE GONE UP LIKE YOU CAME DOWN, YOU COULD HAVE COME DOWN LIKE YOU WENT UP!”
Effective communication is not reserved for those with the right personality, title or endowment; although these things can certainly influence a person’s communication skills. Rather, it is about knowing your audience, being humble in your approach and possessing just a little bit a fear that you will make the most of this interaction. Preparation ensures you maximize the relevance of your message to your audience, as well as decrease the amount of butterflies in the stomach. The more practiced the message and the more real it is to your personal experience, the more you can focus on assessing how your words are impacting your audience.
My father used to also tell me that all communications problems are not about words spoken from mouth to ear; but rather the communication line that goes from the head to the heart. If you don’t have good inner dialogue, your outer dialogue is going to stink. So before a word comes out of your mouth, make sure of its source. Is it streaming from anger, superiority or indignation? Or is its source to clarify, edify and improve? Once you’ve taped into the real source of your spoken words you’ll be able to enjoy the tremendous power of your personal communication!