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The Greatest Communicators of the Modern History

People think communication is simply about exchanging information, but it is so much more than that…

Communication is the process of sending and receiving messages through verbal and nonverbal means. It involves understanding the message that is being sent as well as the needs and wants of the receiver.

Good communication skills are essential for all leaders. Why?

Because without effective communication, it would be impossible to build trust, create shared goals, or resolve conflicts.

Leaders need to be able to communicate their vision clearly and concisely so that their people can buy into it and work together to achieve it.

They also need to be able to listen attentively so that they can understand the needs of their team members and address any concerns they may have.

Leaders who have strong communication skills are able to create an open and positive environment where team members feel comfortable expressing themselves and sharing their ideas.

This type of environment is essential for innovation and creativity to thrive.

Furthermore, effective communicators know how to handle difficult conversations in a constructive way.

Some of the greatest leaders in history have been master communicators. From Julius Caesar to Winston Churchill, these leaders used their communication skills to inspire those around them, motivate them to action, and win them over to their side.

They were able to clearly and concisely express their thoughts and ideas, as well as listen carefully to what others had to say

Here is our list of some great communicators of the modern day. It will give you a brief insight into their lives and exactly what made them excellent communicators. From this, you may extend your thinking to how communication will play its hand in our new world of hybrid, remote work as these greats had conquered this challenge long ago.

 

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid activist who served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. He lit the fire of freedom in ANC and helped in organizing the opposition to the Apartheid policies of the ruling National party.

Globally regarded as an icon of democracy and social justice, he received more than 250 honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize.

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal that I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Speech from the Dock quote by Nelson Mandela on 20 April 1964 [1]

 

Martin King Luther Jr

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most influential speakers in America. He used positive language and focused words to create a visual description that would inspire people to join his cause for an equal society, gained through dignity and discipline.

MLK’s vision for the future was a powerful force that continues to resonate with people around the world today.

“Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.” [2]

 

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan was the 40th president of the United States. He is most well-known for his supply-side economics policies. He proposed tax reduction, deregulation, and a reduction in government spending.

When he left office in 1989, Reagan had an approval rating of 68%, making him one of the most popular presidents in modern history.

Reagan’s speeches were often incredibly effective at rallying the American people behind his policies. His communication skills were truly remarkable, and they aptly illustrate the power that a great presidential speech can have.

Reagan’s historical wisdom is like Winston Churchill’s. This can be observed in one of his quotes:

“When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits, not animals. There is something going on in time and space and beyond time and space which whether we like it or not spells duty.” [3]

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd President of America, serving from 1933 until his death in 1945.

One of his greatest skills was his ability to communicate with the American people, and he did so through his nationally-broadcast speeches known as “Fireside Chats.”

He often timed them to be right around milestone events when interest would be highest – like major events in the war and the opening and closing of congressional sessions.

Roosevelt’s biggest strength was his ability to connect with average Americans, who served as his political base. He relied on them for support and built a connection with them by referring to them as my friend.

He understood that people needed to be able to understand complex problems and solutions, so he explained them in a way that the average person could understand. He also used simplifying analogies to make his speeches more relatable.

In May 1933, for example, he explained the complex topics of federal finances, inflations, and the gold standard this way:

“In the first place, government credit and government currency are really one and the same thing. Behind government bonds, there is only a promise to pay. Behind government currency, we have, in addition to the promise to pay, a reserve of gold and a small reserve of silver.” [4]

 

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Gandhi was an Indian lawyer and political ethicist who is considered the father of India’s non-violent resistance movement against British colonialism.

He is best known for his philosophy of nonviolent resistance, which he demonstrated during the British colonial rule of India. Gandhi’s approach proved itself to be a successful method of communicating with and rallying support from the people.

Gandhi had a deep electrifying impact on all those he met or communicated with. He left an indelible mark on India’s struggle for independence from British rule.

His speeches and writings were measured and to the point, leaving little room for confusion about his intentions. He recognized that communication is the most effective tool to shape opinion and mobilize popular support.

“It is not a happy position for a big country like India to be merely helping with money and material obtained willy-nilly from her while the United Nations are conducting the war. We cannot evoke the true spirit of sacrifice and valor, so long as we are not free. I know the British Government will not be able to withhold freedom from us when we have made enough self-sacrifice. We must, therefore, purge ourselves of hatred. Speaking for myself, I can say that I have never felt any hatred. As a matter of fact, I feel myself to be a greater friend of the British now than ever before. One reason is that they are today in distress. My very friendship, therefore, demands that I should try to save them from their mistakes. As I view the situation, they are on the brink of an abyss. It, therefore, becomes my duty to warn them of their danger even though it may, for the time being, anger them to the point of cutting off the friendly hand that is stretched out to help them. People may laugh, nevertheless, that is my claim.”

 — from Quit India Speech on August 8, 1942 [5]

 

 Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was one of the most intellectual and wise presidents in United States history. He served as the third president of the United States.

He was a very intellectual, wise, and erudite man who didn’t speak often, but when he did, people listened. He wrote the initial draft of the Declaration of Independence without any books or pamphlets as references.

Aside from his two inaugural presidential addresses, there are almost no records of any speeches that he gave. His passion for freedom and liberty for everyone is evident in everything that he did.

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

 

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was one of the most iconic and successful leaders in world history. He served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, during the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955.

He is seen as a victorious wartime leader who played an important role in defending Europe’s liberal democracy against the spread of fascism.

Churchill had exceptional communication skills and was honest and consistent in his messages. He was clear about the sacrifices needed to reach victory and injected courage and hope throughout the world.

He was an excellent example of communicative leadership. Churchill took great care to refine his enunciation, making sure that his speeches were clear and evocative.

He had an immense vocabulary, but he usually opted for words that would deliver his message with maximum clarity.

Consider this excerpt from a famous speech he gave during the tumultuous years of WWII:

“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time, I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, “Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”

— First Speech as Prime Minister to the House of Commons May 13, 1940

 

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev was born in 1931, in the Soviet Union. He was the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union. He realized that the Soviet Union could not continue to fight in the Cold War, so he withdrew from the Soviet-Afghan War.

He then embarked on summits with United States president Ronald Reagan to limit nuclear weapons and end the Cold War.

One of his strongest communication skills as noted by a reporter from Times magazine was:

“The first thing you notice on meeting President Gorbachev is his eyes, their intensity, their directness, and their power.”

His heightened sense of situational and contextual awareness helped him steer his country through some of its most tumultuous times. He was a great advocate of openness and freedom. On one occasion he said:

“We have retreated from the perennial values. I don’t think that we need any new values. The most important thing is to try to revive the universally known values from which we have retreated.

As a young man, I really took to heart the Communist ideals. A young soul certainly cannot reject things like justice and equality. These were the goals proclaimed by the Communists. But in reality, that terrible Communist experiment brought about the repression of human dignity. Violence was used in order to impose that model on society.

In the name of Communism, we abandoned basic human values. So, when I came to power in Russia, I started to restore those values; values of “openness” and freedom.”

 

Final Thoughts…

Conclusion paragraph: Leaders need exceptional communication skills in order to get their message across and inspire people. However, being a good communicator also requires being a good listener.

In addition, leaders should be aware of the power of words and use them wisely to motivate and encourage people. There are many great modern communicators whose stories can teach us valuable lessons about communication.

Here in this article, we have highlighted just a few of these communicators. What have you learned from them? Are there any other modern communicators that you think we should study?

 

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Based on that exposure, our company has intentionally set out to support those practicing the art and science of leadership – or as often referred to, “Executive Talent.” These are people who acknowledge that they are not experts. They are open to opportunities for continued growth and carry the desire for learning what is needed to become a success in today’s complexity and uncertainty.

To this end, we have purposely structured our company and engaged with associates in strategic global locations, so that we are able to provide the full suite of transformational executive leadership coaching, facilitation, and education support required.

 

References:

[1]. Nelson Mandela Foundation, Biography of Nelson Mandela

[2]. Laura Petrolino, January 21, 2019, Four Communication Lessons from Martin King Luther Jr.

[3]. Lee Edwards, February 5th, 2018, What Made Reagan a Truly Great Communicator

[4]. Victor Prince, April 15th, 2020, 5 Communications Lessons from FDR’s Fireside Chats

[5]. Ritu Kant Ojha, October 2nd, 2018, What Gandhi can teach us about communications & strategy

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