What Makes Communication “the Language of a Leader”?

Some people have asked me recently what precisely makes communication sound like “the language of a leader.” This is a topic I explore in the book recently published by McGraw-Hill called Say It Like Obama: the Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision (

Effective communication has multiple layers. Spoken word is only one element of many. As I lay forth in Say It Like Obama, there are other equally important dimensions of effective communication, such as excellent use of body language, gestures, intonation and cadence. Simply the way something is said—whether the tone is emphatic or bland—has an impact on perceptions. Even what is not said can matter—whether, for instance, you pause before you offer responses can matter. Did you hesitate, and if so, how? Was it a considered hesitation? An uncertain hesitation? An intentional pregnant pause?

Effective leaders understand that communication is one of their most potent tools and take care to use spoken words to their advantage. They continually develop their communication abilities—from strengthening their use of body language and gestures, to learning important rhetorical techniques (repetition, comparing and contrasting, use of rhetorical questions, etc.) to enhance their delivery. These are all elements that Barack Obama has mastered so wonderfully, which has enabled him to draw on strong oration and communication as a main way he is able to persuade others to consider and ultimately embrace his views.


Dr. Shel Leanne runs a leadership development company with clients from Fortune 100 companies. She is author of the recently published book, Say It Like Obama: the Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision (McGraw Hill, October 2008) –