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21 Jan 2009

2,408 words: powerful leadership messages

Wayne Burns

As a communication tableua, President Barack Obama's Inauguration speech is a guide to good leadership communications because of its brevity, economic use of descriptors, and because it addressed pressing public and political policy issues without once using the word 'policy.'

Good speeches like the President's Inauguration Address stand out because of the paucity of good leadership communication in politics and business.

Most political leaders deluge us with policy speak to engage us around policy, then wonder why their turgid utterings fail to influence us.

Even more business leaders speak a language that sounds more like secret Masonic code than a dialect that investors, employees and the wider community can grasp and understand.

Excellent speakers like President Obama paint pictures with words, and repeat key themes without us realising it.  "Common", "generation", "world" and "prosperity" were often used by the new President, and underpinned the main themes of his Address.

Some savvy public affairs practitioners responsible for writing speeches for CEOs, Board chairs and senior managers, often read, listen to, and seek to understand the anatomy of great speeches.

Looking at President Obama's effort on January 20, 2009, his speech was notable for its brevity, for resisting the temptation to dazzle (or daze) his audience with a panoply of statistics, and for requisitioning words to paint pictures that most people could relate to and understand. These elements can be found frequently in most good speeches.

The full text of the President's Address can be found at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/4298722/President-Barack-Obamas-inaugural-address-speech-in-full.htm

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