Simon Hayward from Cirrus writes for People Management on how leaders are judged not just on what they say, but also how they say it.
Before Ed Miliband gave his speech to the Labour party conference in Liverpool this week, I was struck by how most commentators were more interested in how he was going to deliver it than what he was actually going to say. Would he come across as a persuasive leader? Or would the Labour party, the media and the wider public remain to be convinced?
Miliband is still establishing himself as a leader, which is a tough job for anyone, especially anyone in a difficult and challenging position. And let’s face it, in the current climate most leadership roles are quite difficult and challenging. Although what we say is important, how we say it – our presentation and communication style – can make the difference between convincing, engaging, and motivating others and leaving them cold.
Rumours abounded this week that Paul Greengrass, the British director of The Bourne Supremacy, had been helping Miliband with some pre-speech direction, and that the Labour leader had carefully rehearsed how he would walk onto the conference stage.
Unfortunately, most of us have had enough of over-rehearsed, slick and polished presentation – and can see right through it. Speeches and presentations that sound calculated and rehearsed often fail to engage the majority. Compelling leadership is often based on persuasive communication. We want honest, authentic leaders who communicate clearly and openly from the heart. If leaders can genuinely connect with others through what they say, how they say it, and how they respond to what others say in return, they are well placed to build trust and inspire others.
So how did Ed Miliband do when he took the stage in Liverpool this week? Opinion is still divided. Analysis has been focused on how he ‘performed’. Many feel he is still struggling to project himself as a convincing leader, although he has been praised by some for sounding sincere and principled. I think he certainly communicated with conviction. His challenge is to build on this to sound like a leader who is credible enough to communicate on the world stage, not just the conference stage. The gap is not just whether people believe him, but whether people believe in him.
Please click here to read Simon’s article in full.