I am an easy mark for good oratory I really am. I think what some people can do with the composition and delivery of words is incredible. I think, with a few exceptions, the art of oratory has been replaced by the art of spin and sound biting. As Rob Lowe (as Sam Seaborn) in ‘The West Wing’ says “Oratory should raise your heart rate. Oratory should blow the doors off the place.” Rare indeed!
If you have read any of Daniel Goleman’s work on “Emotional Intelligence” (he literally wrote the book on it) he describes six styles of leadership that leaders can apply to build resonance. My intention here is not to get into a debate about emotional intelligence or application thereof… The six styles he describes are visionary, democratic, coaching, affilliative, pacesetting & commanding, and the inference is that we each have a default style that comes most naturally but by being more conscious and aware of what is going on around us we can focus our behaviour and communication to make what we do more effective.
I have used this on several programmes to try and help those in leadership roles understand their impact on people and why they sometimes don’t get the results they were intending. What makes it difficult to illustrate is getting examples of leader behaviour that are familiar to a cross functional group is really tricky, so I resort to using video clips either from films or of oratory (or both) that go some way to give an example for discussion.
The style that often gets misapplied (especially, in my experience by people who are insecure or feel their control is limited) is the commanding style. According to Goleman is builds resonance by soothing fears and giving clear direction in a difficult situation but is often used in inappropriate circumstances thus having a negative effect.
It was actually a consultant I worked with who suggested a piece of oratory that really fit the bill to illustrate this style and to give you a little background…
Lt Col Tim Collins was the Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment. On the eve of the invasion in Iraq in 2003, he gave a speech to his men which was recorded in shorthand and published by a journalist (you can see her in the clip). In 2008, the BBC made a series of short films called ’10 days to War’ and one of the shorts was entitled “Our business now is North” where Kenneth Brannagh played Lt. Col. Collins to great effect.
What fascinates me about what he says is the way he is able to calm and motivate whilst at no point making a request or making what they have to do seem any less intimidating or perilous. Having watched it numerous times it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on end.
I must add an aside that made me laugh – lots. The first time I ever played this as part of a workshop was with a number of senior people in the business I worked for. I overheard someone say “doesn’t Brannagh do an amazing Northern Irish accent” to which her colleague responded “he should do, he was born in bloody Belfast”.