Say It Like Obama: The Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision

In record time, McGraw-Hill is bringing to market Say It Like Obama: The Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision (McGraw-Hill; October 2008; Hardcover: $21.95), a 200-page hardcover that includes Barack Obama’s August 28th acceptance speech from the National Democratic Convention.

New York, NY, September 13, 2008 --( Regardless of what you think of his politics, Barack Obama is one of the most notable orators of recent times. In his mastery of rhetorical techniques, he’s been compared to the great communicators like Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln. The one thing pundits agree on is that Obama possesses a unique ability to motivate an apathetic constituency to care passionately about change.

Obama’s achievements since the 2004 Democratic National Convention are striking. Four years after his keynote address, the first-term U.S. Senator who ranked toward the very bottom in Senate seniority went up against the “Clinton machine” in an improbable quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. Obama stepped into a significant place in history when he passed the critical 2118 delegate threshold to become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, the first African American major party nominee for U.S. president. And Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on August 28, 2008 – forty-five years from the very day Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech.

Obama’s political successes underscore a well-established fact: leaders in all fields benefit when they develop outstanding communication skills because the ability to convey vision, inspire confidence, persuade, and motivate others, is key to effective leadership. So what is it about Obama’s communication practices that have enabled him to move from relative obscurity, overcoming challenges that could have thwarted another candidate – his race, his youth, his “exotic” name – to become one of the most important figures in the Democratic Party?

In Say It Like Obama, leadership development expert Dr. Shel Leanne examines the lessons to be learned from the communication practices that have helped bring about Obama’s successes. The book is about the art of persuasion, the power of presentation, and the most effective techniques of communication.

Chapter 1 presents and annotates the full text of Obama’s 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address – the speech that started it all. An examination of this speech reveals many of the key practices Obama employs that give him such distinguished communicative power.

Chapter 2 (“Earning Trust and Confidence”) examines practices that have enabled Obama to inspire and motivate so many people so quickly, winning over many skeptics with his charisma. His success illustrates the importance of a strong first impression and how leveraging an excellent second impression helps foster trust and confidence.

Chapter 3 (“Breaking Down Barriers”) explores Obama’s exceptional skill in using oration to unify disparate groups. His forthrightness in acknowledging his unconventional background, combined with his skill in projecting this background as “quintessentially American” and his ability to establish common ground, are assets.

Chapter 4 (“Winning Hearts and Minds”) looks at the best practices that have helped Obama elicit reactions such as “His words moved me,” and “He understands.” His speeches are far from mere recitations – he has demonstrated a remarkable ability to connect with listeners. Key has been his talent for knowing his audiences and identifying the issues they care most about.

Chapter 5 (“Conveying Vision”) examines practices that have enabled Obama to get his point across so effectively. His ability to humanize ideas, themes and emotions, to employ backward loops and to recount effective anecdotes distinguish him as a speaker, as do the ways he crystallizes his points so that they’re remembered long after he has delivered a speech.

Chapter 6 (“Driving Points Home”) delves into techniques Obama employs to distill his main issues, making them dominant in the listener’s mind. Despite significant time restraints – many of his speeches are only twenty minutes long – Obama speaks very effectively, employing an impressive range of rhetorical techniques to convey powerful messages.

Chapter 7 (“Persuading”) discusses lessons to be learned about the practices Obama uses to bring others to his way of thinking. When seeking to do more than convey information, but also to impact opinion and encourage action, Obama pays particular attention to emphasizing a strong sense of logic, sequencing ideas, and addressing non-rhetorical questions.

Chapter 8 (“Facing and Overcoming Controversy”) takes a look at how Obama uses his strong communication skills to weather and survive controversy, often defusing it and mitigating any damaging effects. Whether addressing a poor choice of words or dousing the fire set by the incendiary remarks of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, we see how Obama’s communication practices have aided him in efforts to face and overcome controversies.

Chapter 9 (“Motivating Others to Action and Leaving Strong Lasting Impressions”) explores the communication practices that have helped Obama motivate people to take action. It delves into the tools he uses to convey a sense of momentum and build a sense of urgency, while adopting a communication style that makes him seem more accessible to the audience, as if speaking one-to-one.

Chapter 10 looks at another historic speech – Obama’s August 28, 2008, presidential nomination speech, delivered on the final night of the Democratic National Convention. Obama employed a rich range of rhetorical techniques to provide an extraordinary delivery that tore down barriers, built bridges, swayed hearts and minds, conveyed vision, drove points home, persuaded, and left a strong last impression.

About The Author
Dr. Shel Leanne is President of Regent Crest, a leadership development company that helps empower young business leaders for success. Participants in her leadership development program hail from around the world and come from all industries within the Fortune 100. Prior to launching her company, she gained experience working for McKinsey & Company and for Morgan Stanley in New York as well as a Full Faculty member at Harvard University. A Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Leanne holds a B.A. from Harvard College and earned Masters and Doctoral degrees from Oxford University.

Say It Like Obama: The Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision by Shel Leanne; McGraw-Hill; October 2008; Hardcover: $21.95; 214 pages; ISBN-10: 0-07-161589-X; ISBN-13: 978-0-07-161589-X.

Kenya Henderson