Friday, January 17, 2014

Oratory is Overrated !! ?? !!

This post came out of a student recently discussing the impact of Aam Aadmi Party's evolving on the national political scene. He was of the opinion that India needed decisive leadership and only Narendra Modi could provide it.

Somewhere in the discussion I ended up making a simple statement - which I profoundly believe in. I said - "Don't misunderstand Great Oratory with great Leadership". Later I ended up ruminating about my own statement. Some thoughts.... :

Are we Indians too sentimental? Do we get aroused by speakers on the stage fervently inviting our passions to soar on issues that might be petty but have been blown out of proportion by craft oratory of the speaker on the stage. Is true leadership about getting millions to follow you? I don not possibly have clear answers to this question - as the jury is still out on this issue.

Look at a few examples :
Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, Narayan Murthy, Aung San Suu Kyi, Ratan Tata, JRD are NOT really great examples of exemplary orators but have been undoubtedly great leaders, in the sense that they brought fundamental change and successfully delivered on objectives.

On the other hand Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, S. M. Dutta have been examples of good orators and excellent Leadership combined.

However, it is not uncommon to find that better Orators generally find themselves playing the role of arousing passion or pumping energy with their words symbolically leading, while the real work of leadership is done at the back-end by unsung heroes.

Personally, I see many people who were harbingers of real change or improvement that mattered but the credit of which is received by the more fiery or the one who has this "lead from the front style". Perceptions of course favour the Orators - people generally believe in the person leading from the front. It appears to me, that the Orator often ends up believing that he through his oratory skills is the real driver of change but in most cases the Orator ends up playing the role of a stand-up entertainer.

Would like to hear/read of your experiences/examples in the matter.