Opinion & Columnist

Public speaking for leaders


PROFESSIONAL communication plays a pivotal role in the growth, progress and transitional stage of any company. The leader has to be able to speak and articulate the vision. To the outside world, the leader has to play an ambassadorial role in conveying the brand of the institute. This has been effectively used by technology companies such as Apple and Alibaba. For Apple, we used to see Steve Jobs being instrumental in the introduction of a new product.

In this article I (JN) engaged Blessing Mandipara (BM). He is the founder and executive director of the first-ever school of public speaking in Zimbabwe. He is an executive speech coach with over seven years training CEOs, directors and high-level dignitaries. He is an ex-gardener and inspires men, children and women to use their voice to change the world and make an impact through public speaking!

JN: What’s the importance of communication at executive level?

BM: Effective communication is the lifeblood of any meaningful organisation. Great organisations are clear about who they allow to lead their teams. An executive who has brains, but cannot articulate them well will never bring out the best in his/her subordinates and team members. Good solid organisational communication eliminates barriers, resolves problems and builds stronger workplace relationships which in turn boosts productivity.


JN: Is it essential for leadership, at corporate level to be trained in both public speaking and business communication?

BM: It is extremely essential to receive training and coaching in the art of public speaking and business communication for anyone who call themselves a leader. Warren Buffet attributes much of his success to being equipped with techniques on how to speak well and articulate issues like a leader and not like a follower. Being an executive means influence. It means you are a role model and people watch and listen intently everything you say and how you even say it. We need leaders that talk sense and use the microphone to build and show direction to the followers. We live in a country where we have the best brains, but lack excellent communication skills. We are were we are as country because we lack tact and ingenuity on how we can influence and persuade others to buy-in into our ideas or any cause we represent. A weak leader is one who cannot communicate and such leaders do not deserve that position at all.

JN: How necessary is communication for boardroom dynamics?

BM: Poor chemistry and a general lack of emotional intelligence can seriously handicap a board’s ability to problem solve and make informed decisions. Board members need to have excellent communication skills in order to save time and be more productive. Studies indicate that on average two board members add value needed by the CEO and that’s why good communication skills are mandatory for anyone who sits in a board!

JN: What are the most essential public skills that a 21st century leader should have?

BM: One has to have an excellent command of the language used by the organisation. It is ludicrous to have a leader in this 21st century who can’t pronounce a simple word in front of their followers or articulate with precision what they are really saying. Weak vocabulary and poor grammar are unacceptable atrocities that can be committed by a leader. In fact, such leaders must be jailed or must pay heavy fines so the government can raise more money for other pressing issues. Mannerisms or body language are also critical. It must be used with caution and add value to the spoken word..Voice projection and time management skills are all critical to the success of a 21st century leader. The list is endless.

JN: What do you think could be the problem if the leader is not able to communicate with his team players?

BM: The barriers to effective communication are many. Sometimes an arrogant spirit and an I know-it-all attitude is what suffocates communication between a leader and those that are following.

Some leaders think that once they reach the top, they can’t be corrected, told anything by a follower; forgetting that they were once a follower too.

Humility and love and team spirit are some of the necessary crucibles for any leader whose mission is influence and not position.


JN: Naturally there are leaders with charisma and confidence to speak on stage, can a leader without those traits learn public speaking?

BM: Public speaking is learnable. It is a skill and any skill is learnable. Just like how you learnt to drive a car, ride a bicycle or use a computer. The problem comes if you are not coachable and your belief system is wrong. You have to change your philosophy, your attitude your mentality. Anything that you set your mind to do you can do. You don’t have to have been an A student, come from a place of opulence or attended Group A schools. Charisma and confidence can be developed.

JN: In times of vicissitudes or challenge, it could be a country or company, how essential is motivation or positive psychology?

BM: We need positive energy everywhere. It starts from a family set-up. A house full of negativity shrinks creativity, kills dreams and no organisation or nation will rise to the top with negative citizens. Leaders must inspire citizens and not kill potential. When people work under fear and their spirits are always down, we can’t expect to rise. Motivation is everything. A motivated employee is a productive employee. In spite of the challenges, great leaders inspire their people to dream big and make things happen. Martin Luther inspired, Nelson Mandela inspired, Mother Theresa inspired, Jairosi Jiri inspired and our very own icon leader, legend and national hero Oliver Mtukudzi not only inspired young artists to make a living out music, but also mentored and touched the core of our being. Leadership is influence and his music is an inspiration. Through words woven with sound to create a harmony, Tuku pierced hearts, rebuked men and children and inspired women and humanity to love…That’s motivation.

JN: What needs does your tailored training meet?

BM: The need to be a confident orator regardless of colour, age, background and even level of education. Develop verbal power and an increase of word bank. Speak with power and passion, arranging ideas in sequence and exude mastery of the body language, Just to mention a few.

JN: How did you become a public speaker?

BM: I am a product of many processes. I learnt from so many people in our country, joined some professional organisations like Toastmasters, went to South Africa to learn from the likes of Les Brown, Robert Kiyosaki and my mentor Edmore Gamundani. I have read over 300 books on leadership; motivation, success and public speaking. I have watched over 500 videos on public speaking and I practise everyday to make sure I remain at the top of my game.

Jonah Nyoni is an author, success coach and certified leadership/business trainer. He is the author of Inspiration for Success and Success Within Reach.