Leadership and Speaking – Chicken and Egg?

Given a lifetime of exposure to people in a wide range of leadership positions, some quite exceptional, some quite simply useless, I have observed the linkage between effective leadership and speaking skills.

I wondered for quite some time whether good leaders made good speakers or whether good speakers made good leaders. Similar to the old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg?

After contemplation, and listening to people in leadership positions, not necessarily leaders, I have decided that it is a simple fact of life – Leaders speak well and effectively.

It is the ability to speak well in public, to small or larger groups, that develops and instills leadership skills and traits.

The Ardern Effect

Once again in recent days I have witnessed, following tragic circumstances, the leadership  qualities of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The NZ Prime Minister has shown us all the leadership qualities borne of compassion, caring and commitment that Ms Ardern possesses.

I have written previously of being engaged by her speech to the United Nations in 2018. Following the Christchurch tragedy I have been in awe of this marvelous leader yet again.

We have seen her steely resolve blended with her compassion and emphasis on what makes New Zealand a wonderful country without bending to vitriol and hate. Her emotions are clear, not fabricated; they are evident in every word, in every facial expression and in every gesture.

Irrespective of politics, Jacinda Ardern is the real thing – a genuine leader.

How About You?

When you speak in public, what are you attempting to achieve? Only when you convey your deepest emotions on the subject, only when you convince your audience that they need to act how you want them to, can you be called a leader.

Any public speaking forum, whether large or small, must have a clearly defined purpose. Do you seek to educate, inspire, warn or highlight opportunity? If you are clear on your objective, understand what your audience expects of you, then deliver with emotional commitment then you will sound like a leader.


Consider the impact that Ms Ardern’s speaking in recent days have had, not just on you, but those around you. How many people are sharing their impressions of the NZ PM and how she has made them aware of what she wants for her country?

Then ask yourself, to what extent have our own political leaders had a similar affect? Not many would be the truthful and objective answer. Unfortunately it is the same for our business leaders – or should I say managers. How many of them convince you to take a difficult journey with them?

Jacinda Ardern has sold me a ticket on the journey on which she wants to take NZ.

The critical lesson out of the aftermath of the tragedy in Christchurch is that you must be clear when speaking as a leader on what journey you wish your audience to take. If you are clear on the destination and you speak from the heart, then your audience will follow.

A Note on Us

Us being Australia – how do we fare for leaders? Unfortunately, while PM Ardern seeks to bring together her nation, sharing her innermost emotions, we in Australia are bereft of leadership, on both sides of the political fence. Our lot are preoccupied with holding or gaining power. The result is a reversion to instilling fear, not inspiration. As a result they divide the audience rather than bring them together for a common purpose.

We have a leadership vacuum – just listen to them speak and it is obvious.

Perhaps I might seek New Zealand citizenship after all. At least I’d have a leader.

Ray Hartley


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