Leadership lessons from The King’s Speech

Just back from The King's Speech, one of the best movies I have ever seen. It is justifiably tipped to sweep the Oscars. The movie stars Colin Firth as King George VI of England, battling to overcome a debilitating speech impediment he has suffered all his life. The stakes are high, as the King has to lead the country when it is on the brink of war, with public speaking a key part of this role.

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In addition to thoroughly enjoying the film, it gave me food for thought on leadership and personal growth.

1. Be authentic, not perfect

This story shows how its better to be authentic than to strive to emulate perfect role models. King George VI was never going to be a flawless, word perfect public speaker. However, the speech he finally managed to give when declaring war against Germany in 1939 crackles with emotion. You feel the King means every word. The pauses, caused by nerves and a struggle to avoid stammering, actually add gravitas and power to the speech. You can listen to the speech here.

2. To change, set a "drop-deadline"

The problem with most deadlines is that they tend to get pushed back. Or they are vague. This applies in our own personal lives and at work. "One day I'll get around to running a half-marathon" or "We must upgrade our website this year".

Drop-deadlines are much more effective. In the King's Speech, the King has to give a speech on his coronation and another to declare war. Neither of these could be put off. He was forced into making them happen, with no escape.

In the business world, Apple is the master of drop-deadlines using Steve Jobs' MacWorld keynote speeches. These create key events in the year when products and service have to be ready for launch. If you are late and miss your slot your launch won't happen, or it will miss out on the fanfare of a Jobs keynote.

3. If you're serious, get a coach

The movie shows how a coach can help you achieve your leadership goals. King George VI was help by an eccentric speech therapist called Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). In contrast to the countless doctors who had tried to "cure" the King, Logue coached him to help him perform better.

Having the right coach helps you set goals and keeps you on track in terms of the work you need to do to progress. I find this with personal fitness. I just can't do it by myself. A coach makes all the difference. And it can work at work too. If you're serious about something in your work life, such as public speaking, then it could be worth getting a coach.

In conclusion, see the movie! Trailer below (warning, this gives away some of the best bits)