Why the King matters…

As you might imagine, my vote for best picture this year is The Kings Speech.   If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do…today!  Not simply because of its numerous Oscar nominations, but because you will rarely see the significance of trust so well expressed.

In this elegant film, the coach Lionel Logue sees courage and possibility in the Prince of Wales, while the future King can only focus on the barriers his speech impediment creates.  Lionel demands trust from “Bertie,” which is the foundation of building trust in his own leadership potential.

I believe we have many exceptional leaders whose awkward speech hinders their effectiveness.  And today we desperately need them to be effective, and not to be stymied by anxiety.

It’s no wonder this is common: the risks associated with taking messages public, and the negative impact of less-than-effective performances can be magnified upon replay.  Contemporary examples of bad message delivery abound:  the tone-deaf remarks of BP’s ex-CEO Tony Hayward, President Bush’s public praise for his FEMA chief, Howard Dean’s excessive enthusiasm in front of the microphone.  Political leanings aside, we cringe to see leaders pilloried in the media after a misstep – because it discourages those who may have the ability, but not the confidence, to take on a leadership role.

Delivering messages successfully is not about talent. It is about hard work.  It is about taking the resources you have, building on them and pushing them to their limits.  And as this film illustrates, great performance is not just about the physical characteristics of the task.  That is just the beginning of the work.

To get to the true power of performance, you must find the courage to let go of those demons that would limit you.  Have the courage to share your beliefs, principles and ideas.  Embrace the task of understanding your audience and use your own best abilities to reach them.  And as the audience nods their collective heads and realize that the speaker is speaking to their needs, beliefs, principles and desires, a well-delivered speech connects with people in ways that surpass volume and diction.

Who wouldn’t want their leaders to have this capability?  It’s powerful.  King George VI spoke with the voice of one who faced down personal limitations and overcome them. He did so because it was his duty to inspire confidence – but also because someone trusted in his courage, and gave him the ability to help lead a great nation through crisis.

Enough for now!  Hope you enjoy Oscar night.

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