Monday, July 27, 2009

Controlled Speech 

This is an interesting article on the impact of Presidential words. It seems Obama is learning he cannot speak his mind freely because the ramifications are larger than he expects. An example of that is the fracas he stepped into last week when he commented on the arrest of African-American professor, Henry Louis Gates. Part of Obama's challenge is his immaturity as a leader. He had little experience running an office before he became President, so he wasn't aware of how far his words would carry. He is learning quickly.

From a PR point of view, there is a penalty when a leader's words are misconstrued or taken literally. That is why a practitioner should urge caution when, for example, a CEO wants to comment on topics. There are times when it isn't worth the trouble it can create. On the other hand, leaders should not disappear in office either. It is a question of disciplined speech -- hewing to essential issues and letting others pass without comment. For some leaders, that is easy. For most, it isn't. It is hard for leaders to understand that high office actually limits one's ability to speak out, if one wants to be effective.


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