The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Putting your audience first

Leaders can learn a lot from exceptional speakers, without needing to become exceptional speakers themselves.

There is a tight link between both, as speakers who want to become exceptional at it must be willing to be a leader. Their leadership may only last for the duration of their speech, however, for it to be exceptional it has to have an impact that lasts longer than the speech. That is the outcome a speaker looks for. He thus has to be willing to care for the consequences of their speech and to enable his audience to use what he shared in a meaningful way.

Often speakers will search for a way to persuade their audience. An assumption in such an approach is that the audience doesn’t understand the subject as well as they do and that that is all that needs to be achieved. The speaker’s belief in such a moment is that others will naturally decide as they do themselves. Or, said differently, that once the facts are known everyone would do what they do.

In doing so speakers have a focus that is more on themselves, they find it hard to imagine that other people can come to a different conclusion, have a different set of references or have a different worldview. They want others to join them.

There are times when such a leadership style is exactly the right one. There are many situations in which a conventional and hierarchical leadership style is a good fit. For example, when the audience indeed needs to have the speaker’s support in doing the leap and will continue to have their support after the speech.

But exceptional speakers know that this is rarely their situation. They know that in most cases what they can do is limited to sharing an idea and making a path visible. They know that their audience will have to walk the path on their own and will have to figure it out on their own. These speakers search for a way to make the information accessible that their audience will be able to use and find themselves invited to use. They take up a leadership style that is closer to one of servant leadership.

They adapt their message to the situation their audience is in, what they know, and what they can use of this message in their situation. Such speakers also search for ways to continue the conversation beyond the presentation. They develop the patience to know that there will be another opportunity to share their ideas and that all that is necessary is that the audience gets started and knows how to find a way to continue. May it be, by coming back to the speaker for more input. May it be, that they as speakers find other occasions to be present.


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