Three days after September 11, President George W. Bush stood on a pile of rubble and addressed a group of emergency and construction workers. The President had already shared prepared remarks with the American people, but on this day, his comments here were unscripted. Surrounded by New York Citiy’s finest, he took a bullhorn and began to talk.
In the background, you hear a New Yorker say “Go get ’em George.” As he addressed the crowd, someone yells out “We can’t hear you.” The President responded: “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” People cheered. A chant of “USA, USA!”broke out.
Though his average approval rating during his time in office was 49%, in the days and weeks that followed 9/11, the Presidents approval rating reached 90%.People were inspired by his confidence.
That confident leadership was expressed best in these unscripted moments of communication. Though the media was routinely critical of his speeches and the late night shows made fun of his speaking ability, this moment was one of the highlights of his presidency.
Your political views aside, that bullhorn moment was a blend of authority and authenticity. On a pile of rubble, George W. Bush was not acting like the President, he was BEING the President.
What can communicators learn from this moment in history?
There’s a direct link between communication and confidence. If people have confidence in you as a communicator, they will have confidence in you as a leader. The ability to lead and the ability to communicate are so closely tied to each other that it’s difficult to separate the two. You might even say it’s impossible to be a good leader without the ability to clearly communication.
Leadership might be more than communication, but it certainly involves communication. And clear communication is a form of leadership.