The Language of Sound Leadership

Susan White Voice Coach

Recently the head of a well-known West London boys’ school, when praised on his speaking ability, divulged the advice given to him by an elderly mentor: “Those who speak, lead; those who cannot, follow”. The young man put this to good use, becoming a charismatic leader of young people and founding The Lucca Leadership Trust.

But how can we all lead when so much human activity requires teamwork and co-operation? Whether you are a team leader or work within a group, the sound of what you say will affect the impression your words have on others.

We communicate constantly, with looks, movements, yawns, sighs and stillness. Next time someone speaks, listen attentively. Listen so that you hear both what is and is not said. How long can you remain listening? Note the effect of your attention. Does the speaker continue, speed up or slow down, assume your agreement or disagreement, falter and dry up?

The Radio 4 series, The Sound of Life, seeks to answer the question whether, in the primordial jungle, hearing evolved first to listen for predators or to locate a mate? Today, do you listen more to keep yourself separate and safe, or to join in and be safe? Do you listen for information

or the quality of the message?

When you give instructions do you just state the goal or the means? Do you remember to thank as often as instruct?

In 2003, I completed research of The Male Voice of the UK Commercial Property Industry. It became evident that the masculine voice, which intended to convey certainty as well as care, was often belied by an undercurrent which detracted from the success of the message. Uncertainty, stemming from each speaker’s own inner fears became transmuted and noted by those listening.

In our time of communication through email and text, dialogue and accord suffer. We are not so ready to agree when we only ‘see’ a communication. Vision separates, sound unifies.

Fundamental to becoming a good speaker is the ability to pause and listen. Then, when you have something to say, your voice and words will ring true.




Contact: Susan White