Any Executive Can Give a Good Speech

First comes the shock, plus sadness or relief, that the old leader is stepping down (to “focus on other pursuits” or “spend more time with family”) and a new name is being installed. Then comes the requisite staff or all-hands meeting. You listen to a polished presentation – encouraging, opportune, fresh, articulate – and you come away thinking that this new person might really be OK, might actually address the organization’s challenges and exercise good governance over the business and its employees.

PHPNW11 Audience

All Hands

Your breath of hopefulness means that the executive has accomplished the presentation’s main goals: settle nerves, hasten adjustment, and spark optimism – all of which promote a return to productivity in the work force. The broad term for this mass mood management is politics. In fact you have learned nothing about the leadership style or effectiveness of the new boss.

Giving a speech to the masses (defined as people you do not know personally but whose support you need) is the ultimate stage for the persona, that part of the psyche that is well-behaved, unoffensive, even likeable. People marvel at how they can encounter the same person in a smaller meeting, more so in a 1:1, and see a completely different, much darker character. That’s the shadow side of the psyche, the accrual of developmental defects piled on a base of shame. Balancing this darkness are the person’s gifts and virtues. Political speeches within organizations are neither good nor bad; they are just completely unrevealing.