What does a great leader have in common with a small child? The answer is their ability to manipulate with the sound of their voice. Imagine you are in a restaurant with the usual ambient background chatter, when suddenly the sound of a small child in the distant corner is heard. Your ears prick up; the sound is distinctive and reaches a part of your consciousness reserved for emotional reaction.
Listening to great leaders invokes a similar reaction. We are drawn in primarily by the sound of their voice, followed by their body language and rhetoric. Imran Khan’s speech at Rawalpindi on 27th May this year. Charlie Chaplin in his Emperor’s Speech. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama at the CNC 2008. Even Tony Blair? With Imran Khan, the sound is bold and masculine, it has sincerity and gravitas. Bill Clinton’s warm and intimate tones exude trust and comfort.
But let’s forget about politicians for a while and apply this principle to communication in general, whether selling or instructing, getting the barman’s attention in a crowded pub or simply holding a conversation at a party. Keeping the attention of the listener is of prime importance and that is why we need to re-learn the technique of crying in order to free the sound of the voice, and convey passion with clarity and impact. Once we have control over our crying mechanism, we can use it to elicit a range of emotional responses for longer periods and without our voice tiring.
The very act of using the core muscles to support the voice automatically energises the base of the spine, opens the back, distributes the weight of the head along the spine, and helps with our posture and body language.
The way we use our voices in speech and singing has a direct effect on our communication skills as a whole and, more importantly, our health. Great leaders have mastered the art of voice; they know what is effective whilst remaining authentic.
In the UK, we tend to train our leaders to sound non-threatening, accessible. The power of their convictions is toned down to mimic the nice guy next door. The result is they are no longer authentic and fail to communicate with us at a visceral level. They do not sound like leaders. Unless our voice represents our passion, we will never reach our audience in the same way as that child crying for attention in the restaurant.