So what ties us together? We're tied together by our belief in political democracy. We're tied together by our belief in religious freedom. We're tied together by our belief in capitalism. . . . We're tied together because we respect human life. We're tied together because we respect the rule of law. Those are the group of ideas that make us Americans.
Rudy Giuliani, "Text of Mayor Giuliani's Farewell Address," New York Times, Dec. 27, 2001.
There is a striking moment in the movie Patton where George C. Scott speaks stirringly, almost poetically, about the warrior culture and the sacrifice it takes to be a soldier. In that instant, you can catch a glimpse of what it means to be a leader speaking to a group of followers. Here is Patton, the archetype of the American general, expounding on his theory of the warrior in history. He is confident, purposeful, and very direct. In short, he is a man who knows who he is and why he is speaking. That is the moment of awareness that every leadership speaker should strive to achieve.
Switch to another scene: Oprah Winfrey on the set of her TV studio. She alternates between calmness and enthusiasm, joy and sadness, fun and seriousness. Ms. Winfrey is a world away from a fictionalized George Patton, but she is every bit as dynamic and in control as he was - and maybe more so. She is a speaker who possesses the moment of awareness. She knows who she is and what her message is.
Patton and Winfrey are not unique. Every good leader-presenter possesses a high degree of self-awareness mixed with self-understanding of his or her role as a communicator. To many, the following questions may seem obvious, but until the framework for speaking is defined, the message cannot be clear. In this chapter, we will explore two concepts:
Who are you as a leadership communicator (e.g., a presenter, a coach, or something else)?
Why are you speaking to me?
Creating a leadership message is about having a point of view. It is the perspective that you bring to the subject material as a leader within the organization. Your perspective on the issue emerges from your role within the organization as well as the content of your leadership character, i.e., what you stand for.
It is important to note, however, that a leader's speaking style on the stump in front of an audience can differ somewhat from that leader's private side. Some of the most dynamic leaders may be quiet and shy off stage. They reserve their passion for the stage and the audience, rather like actors do. Likewise, some leaders who are lively and funny one on one are absolute duds on stage. This occurs because they have been unable to capture their private persona or are unwilling to share it with others in a public forum.
As a leadership communicator, you will be called upon to make your messages public. Why? Because that's how you lead. When a leader keeps everything inside, people are left to their own devices to try and figure out what the leader may, or may not, want. This is a failure of communications and a failure of leadership.
The role that you, as a leader-presenter, play in public is up to you. As a general rule, the closer you are on stage to what you are in private, the more meaningful and believable your presentation will be.
We offer four models of leadership presentation (see Figure 2-1).
The first type of leadership communicator is the expert, or the keeper of the mission. The expert holds to the organization's mission - what the organization is and how it conducts business. Experts base their decision making on facts and their relationship to the business environment - how the company can anticipate and capitalize on market opportunities.
Colin Powell is an excellent example of the expert who understands the mission and what it takes to fulfill it. As one who was raised in the military as a soldier and then as a military aide to politicians, Powell knows his subject matter. When you listen to him speak, he presents his point of view as a matter of fact; in other words, he is abiding by the mission.
Corporate leaders, too, can be experts. They also keep close tabs on their human resources, always evaluating whether they have the right people doing the jobs and what they need to do to develop the next generation of leaders.
The second type of leadership communicator is what we call the visionary. Visionaries are those leaders whose ardent belief in their cause outweighs their words. Their speaking style comes from deep within, from their inner core values. Their mission is to persuade, to change points of view. And their leadership does not stop when the words do. Rather, it continues in the conduct of their daily lives.
One of the most impassioned leadership speakers of our times is Steve Jobs. A pioneer in the development of the personal computer, Jobs is a highly vocal advocate for the integration of technology into one's lifestyle. An accomplished speaker, Jobs knows how to involve the audience, how to tell a story, how to use language to draw mental pictures, and, most convincingly, how to use his passion to persuade others of the inevitability of his cause.
Jobs mixes the language of technology with a gee-whiz fascination with the possibilities of what digitally based personalized technologies can deliver. His experience in Hollywood as a founder of Pixar, an animation house, coupled with his iconic stature as the co-founder of Apple Computer, lends Jobs a stature that few in his industry can match. Another secret to Jobs's ability to sell his message is his willingness to intertwine his personal destiny with that of Apple. Thus, his message becomes larger than life and has more of an opportunity of being heard, not simply by dedicated users of Apple computers, but also by the mainstream media.
In our context, the visionary has a passion that supercedes spoken words. The message itself is always in what the speaker says - as it is with the expert - but what gives it power is the leader's conviction concerning the cause. The visionary as a leader-presenter is consumed with passion. He or she believes in the cause and wants others to embrace it.
The third type of leadership communicator is a combination of the previous two - part visionary and part expert. We call this type of leader the coach. The coach is a collaborator, the one who is called upon by virtue of her or his expertise in a particular subject. Coaches are those who change organizations one person at a time. They look for the unique way to communicate to an individual by discovering what motivates that person, e.g., more money, advancement, or prestige. Once the coach learns the motivational point, he or she can leverage it to help the person succeed.
More and more management, and by extension leadership, involves coaching. Why? Leaders are evaluated on the results of their people. It is up to the leader to enable the team to succeed. Success depends upon communication, as the leader must determine what people need and how the leader can deliver it.
Leader-coaches must adjust their focus throughout the day to address the needs of individuals as well as the needs of the team. The model of the successful sports coach is an apt example. Vince Lombardi was a coach who was able to communicate to players one at a time; his players say that he got them to play better because he raised their expectations of themselves. In other words, he elevated their own perceptions of their abilities and in so doing enabled them to play better.
When Lombardi addressed the entire team, he leveraged the raised expectations to the entire team. But he did more: He provided a firm foundation. How? By teaching. Having begun his coaching career as a high school teacher, Lombardi continued his teaching of the fundamentals. His teaching gave the team a framework upon which they could apply their individual and collective talents.
The fourth type of leadership communicator is again one part visionary, another part expert, but this individual leans toward the visionary. He or she is the transformer: The mission is to persuade - to change minds. Transformers also are one part visionary. They know where they want to take their people, and they apply their selling skills to convince people to come along with them. The transformer as a leader-presenter is one who has both the information and the conviction to persuade the listener to her or his point of view.
Think of a successful salesperson. Think of the words that come to mind when you think of such an individual: knowledgeable, personable, willing to take questions, patient, and persistent. All of these are qualities that salespeople - and presenters who want to persuade others - need to have in abundance.
A good example of a transformer is Mother Teresa. As a sister working in the slums of Calcutta, she brought food, rudimentary medical assistance, and hope to the street people. Realizing strength in numbers, she founded a missionary order to carry out her good intentions. Their continual presence in Calcutta reminds the rest of the world of its obligation to those less fortunate. As word of her work spread throughout the world, she became a willing participant in "selling the mission" to those who could be of assistance. She badgered popes, princes, presidents, and celebrities, all in the name of her mission. She communicated her zeal for her mission through her writing and her public appearances. Her example reminds us of what it takes to make a difference.
Keep in mind that your leadership communication style may vary from situation to situation. One day you may need to be the expert, adhering to the organizational mission. Other times, you may act as the coach, willing to advise, but careful to let the audience make up its own mind. And still other times, you may be communicating in all four modes, depending upon the situation.
Once you know who you are as a leader-presenter (visionary, expert, coach, or transformer), it is necessary for you to determine why you are speaking.
Is it to explain? The most common purpose of a presentation is to convey information as a means of explanation. We see examples of the explanation presentation at press conferences as well as in corporate boardrooms.
Is it to overcome objections? Not everyone will believe everything you say! That may be hard to believe, but it's true. When people do not believe him or her, the presenter must shift into the "overcoming objections" mode. Sometimes the entire presentation can be structured around this idea; at other times, it may be necessary to prepare a brief in advance covering how to deal with questions.
Is it to sell/persuade? Are you convinced that what you are offering the audience is good for them? Then you become the pitchman. Sometimes the presenter is actually selling a product; other times, the presenter is selling a better way of doing things.
Is it to celebrate? Milestones are meant to be marked. When this occurs, the presenter serves as a chief celebrant. Often it is customary to thank the audience for their participation and cite specific examples of achievement.
Is it to entertain? Do you know someone who is about to retire? Very often friends and associates hold a dinner and invite folks close to the individual to say a few words, often in the spirit of lighthearted fun.
These are only a few of the reasons why we make presentations. Unlike presentation styles, purposes can be mixed within the same presentation. For example, you can begin with an explanation and close in a selling mode. This happens quite frequently and enables the presenter to lead the audience from one point to another.
Knowing who you are as a leadership communicator and why you are speaking will make the next step - determining what you will say - that much easier. It is often tempting to skip these first steps, but that is a mistake that could lead you to overlook the needs of the audience as well as important attributes of your message.
So, whether you are the expert explaining an issue or a transformer selling change, you need to know who you are and why you are there if you expect people to believe what you have to say.
For a few hours on that terrible day, he was the de facto leader of the nation as the president and vice president were kept from public view by the Secret Service. His city had been brazenly attacked, and he was at ground zero coordinating with fire, police, and rescue personnel, all the while standing in the media spotlight deftly fielding questions and parceling out information as best he could. His performance, in the apparent absence of national leadership, made him stand out, and as a result, the entire nation stood shoulder to shoulder with him - Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York.
Giuliani believed that it was his duty to be visible. "I was there. I was the mayor of New York. My whole approach as mayor was to be there and be in charge. If I had not gone on TV, it would have been worse for the city." There were rumors that the mayor had been killed during the collapse of the first tower. That made his public visibility all the more vital.
As the grim reality of the loss of nearly three thousand people became apparent in the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, and as the hours dragged into days and finally into weeks, Giuliani, or Rudy more aptly, seemed to be everywhere - meeting with state and federal officials, grieving with the families of fallen firefighters, huddling with prominent city businessmen, and of course maintaining vigil at Ground Zero with fire, police, and rescue people. Later, he appeared at ball games and even on Saturday Night Live.
We can discern much about Rudy Giuliani's leadership communications by examining his farewell address, delivered in St. Paul's Chapel, a small church near the World Trade Center that served as a food and rest shelter for rescue personnel. Giuliani opens with an acknowledgement of his people and their unique capacity to inspire.
[P]eople will ask me where do I get my strength? Well, it's really simple. . . . [M]y strength and energy comes entirely from the people of New York and it comes from a place like this, St. Paul's Chapel. This is a House of God and it's one of the homes of our republic.
As an Italian American, Giuliani feels the presence of those who made sacrifices for him. He speaks lovingly of his grandfather, Rodolfo, who came to America with $20 in his pocket. "So how did he do it? . . . [He and other immigrants] were able to do it because they kept thinking about this idea in their head, this idea of America . . . land of the free and the home of the brave."
He continues with a tribute to his Uncle Rudy, a New York City policeman who served in the Pacific during World War II and was nearly killed. He concludes this mention with an acknowledgement of how his uncle also risked his life on his last day of service as a cop to save someone who was about to commit suicide by leaping from the Brooklyn Bridge. What Giuliani has done is to link himself, his family, and all of America's immigrants to the culture and values of America.
Having established his roots, Giuliani launches into a recapitulation of his record as mayor. He prefaces his record by mentioning a cover of Time magazine in 1990 that called New York "The Rotting Apple." As Giuliani says, "I felt that my job as mayor was to turn around the city. Because I believed rightly or wrongly that we had one last chance to do that, to really turn it around in the opposite direction."
Despite some initial hostility, Giuliani did turn around the fortunes of the city, and in the process reduced crime, increased jobs, and solidified the business base. He was named Time magazine's "Person of the Year" for his efforts in leading the city during its darkest days post-September 11. Giuliani the fighter emerges when he speaks of victory in America's battle against terrorism:
I know we won because I saw within hours the reaction of first, the people of New York City, then the people of the United States of America. I saw within the first hours the three firefighters who lifted the American flag high, within hours of the attack when it was still life-threatening to be there.
His victory theme is echoed, this time with levity, in his mention of the crowds along the West Side Highway, a liberal stronghold. "And when they cheered for President Bush who none of them had voted for I knew for sure that we had won." As he concludes, Giuliani issues a call to action:
[W]e have an obligation to the people who did die to make sure of two things about which there can be no compromise: Their families need to be protected just as if they had been alive; and second, this place has to be sanctified . . . [so that] anybody who comes here immediately . . . feel[s] the great power and strength and emotion of what it means to be an American.
Giuliani's final words are those of the Gettysburg Address. By concluding with these remarks, Giuliani seeks to place the suffering of New York into the panorama of the American people's enduring legacy of sacrifice for ideals larger than themselves.
There was one hiccup. For a few weeks, amid intense speculation - will he or won't he? - reminiscent of another Giuliani, he wondered in public, but chiefly through aides, if he shouldn't stay on as mayor past the end of his term or, better yet, try to get permission to run for another term despite term limits. Better judgment prevailed, and he extinguished the speculation. He left office as planned on January 1. And when the new mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a millionaire financier, took office, Rudy was beside him, in Times Square and at City Hall, symbolically handing over the reins. It was fitting and graceful, almost noble.
Giuliani's personal account of how he responded to the attack on the World Trade Center is a primer on leadership communications. Again and again throughout his detailed account in his book, Leadership, he writes of the importance of communications. He was insistent about getting the media involved and provided them with direct access to him. He even went so far as to conduct live on-the-spot interviews as he walked away from Ground Zero en route to a makeshift command center. The command center, too, was an example of coordinated on-site communications between fire, police, rescue, and government personnel. Face to face or phone to phone, communications are essential in responding to a crisis. As is remaining calm, something that Giuliani speaks about frequently; even if the world around you is going to hell, as it was with the World Trade Center, leaders need to project a sense of calmness.
Curiously, his account contains a near litany of the names of people he encountered on that fateful day. Mentioning these people reflects more than a politician's gift for names; it is a clue to his communications psyche. Good leaders know that actions do not occur because you want them to; they are the result of the actions of others. And if you want people to keep working for you, it is important for you to acknowledge who they are, what they do, and how well they are doing it. Giuliani is a master at this.
In Leadership, Giuliani offers some pithy insights into communicating as a leader. Not surprisingly, given his strong character, Giuliani believes, as do other leaders, that communications begins with a value system and therefore needs to be articulated as "strong beliefs." In line with this, Giuliani believes in "direct" and "unfiltered" communications; throughout his career, he has been front and center on media platforms setting forth his views in plain and simple language.
Giuliani is very particular about his choice of words. A blunt speaker, Giuliani is fond of plain talk and is not above telling his constituents what they "should" or "should not" do. Exhortations are not viewed kindly, but they form Giuliani's character as a communicator and over the years have lent him the credibility he needs in order to lead. A case in point was his deliberate choice of the word Mafia as a U.S. attorney general during his first indictment against organized crime in 1983. Until then, government officials had not wanted to use the word for fear of alienating the 20 million Americans of Italian heritage. Giuliani continued to use the term, explaining that the Mafia represents a tiny minority of Italians. "Ultimately, ‘Mafia' says only that Italians and Italian Americans are human beings. Once we acknowledge that, we take much of the mystique out of it." He also understands the "symbolic weight" of words. As mayor, his administration "changed the name on every ‘Welfare Office' to ‘Job Center.'"
In another chapter, "Reflect, then Decide," Giuliani speaks of the necessity of leaders listening to opposing viewpoints: "Make it clear [prior to a decision's being made] you'll entertain changing your mind even on cut and dried issues." By hearing dissent, the leader exposes him- or herself to an alternative view as well as to new sources of information. After gathering the information, Giuliani advocates reflection, which is really a dialogue with one's self. This process prepares the leader to make an informed decision based on facts, opinion, and personal conviction.
Whatever the future brings Giuliani, he will be forever linked with his heroic performance under fire as he at first commanded, then grieved, then cheered, and always, but always, fought to bring his City back to a sense of if not normalcy, at least, what passes for it as New Yorkers return to their lives. And like one of his heroes, Winston Churchill, Giuliani has elevated the suffering of his City to heroic status as a means of giving the people who live there a sense of hope, of mission, and of determination.
All speech excerpts from "Text of Mayor Giuliani's Farewell Address," New York Times, Dec. 27, 2001.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, Leadership, pp. 3-26.
Ibid., pp. 183-195.
Ibid., pp. 195-197.
Ibid., pp. 149-154.