Speaking is a leadership skill. Period. It's difficult to lead if you can't convey a clear, compelling message that inspires and moves people to action. Last night the candidates eagerly awaited the results of the Iowa Caucus. It was a tight race with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders almost tied. But the real winner was the orator of the night-Marco Rubio.
While Ted Cruz came in first, his victory speech was too long, too analytical, and not inspiring. I kept changing the station in search of commentator's reviews. Each time I toggled back, there was Ted, still droning on. This was a lost opportunity to inspire and build excitement for the next race. I didn't remember much of his speech.
Donald Trump came in a close second. The usually pompous, bombastic Trump took it down a notch and gave a gracious concession speech. He thanked and acknowledged the people of Iowa and congratulated Ted Cruz. This was a different Donald Trump and he won points in building trust with his followers. He kept his remarks brief and didn't make excuses. This was a model for losing gracefully and yet not giving up. In keeping with his entrepreneurial personality, he cut his losses quickly and moved on to the next phase.
The real stand-out was Marco Rubio who was neck-in-neck with Mr. Trump. While his speech was well-prepared, his words and delivery were passionate and heartfelt. He stayed on message with his immigrant story, his family values, and the need to conquer the competing party. We could relate to his classic hero's journey. " This is the moment they said would never happen. For months they told us we had no chance. They said I had to wait my turn". . Although his speech was criticized for sounding much like Obama's speech back in 2012, he left his constituents inspired, exhilarated, and confident in his leadership. Rubio turned a third place result into a victory speech.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was at her best. Her fire was not only in her belly but on display in her eyes. She also gave a victory speech even though the results were too close to call. Mrs. Clinton connected with her audience and carried her enthusiasm with her as she exited the stage.
Bernie Sanders, although older than Clinton, communicates energy. He, too, was impassioned in his delivery. The young people not only fed off his message of free college and taxing Wall Street, but his energy and strong conviction connected with this audience. He regarded the evening as a tie with Clinton and expressed confidence in winning New Hampshire. Energy sells.
Will the best speaker win? Not necessarily.There's more to winning a political race than public speaking. But excellent presentation skills will elevate a candidate's leadership, enhance the brand, inspire trust and confidence. Words well written and delivered with absolute conviction and passion will always linger in the hearts and minds of the listeners.