Book Review: 'Impromtu: Leading in the Moment' by Judith Humphrey
Impromtu: Leading in the Moment Judith Humphrey John Wiley & Sons (2017)
The power of “truth, well-told”
According to Judith Humphrey, “Impromptu speaking is an art that few have mastered. Yet it’s a critical skill for leaders — not just those with fancy titles — but those at all levels who wish to come across as polished and persuasive. Impromptu speaking enables us to influence and inspire in day-to-day situations that are becoming more and more common.”
She goes on the point out, “To lead in impromptu situations requires the right mind-set, knowledge of your material, key messages, a sound structure, clear language, and an engaging presence. All this takes preparation. In fact, the word ‘impromptu’ derives from the Latin phrase in promptu meaning ‘in readiness.'”
Long ago, John Hill suggested that public relations should be “truth, well-told.” In fact, that should be true of all communications. Humphrey provides an abundance of valuable information, insights, and counsel that can help almost anyone to communicate much more effectively, even when under severe pressure in high-stakes situations.
These are among the passages of greatest interest and valkue to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Humphrey’s coverage:
o History’s Great Impromptu Speakers Were Made, Not Born (Pages 5-6) o The Three Reasons for the Tise oif Impromptu Speaking (14-21) o Being Real, Being Trustworthy (29-30) o Use Your Body — Listen Physically (45-48) o Use Your Head — Listen Mentally (48-51)
o Use Your Heart — Listen Emotionally (51-54) o Strategies for Showing Authenticity (56-62) o Respect Yourself (76-77) o The Starting Point: Kow Your Stuff (84-86) o Reading Your Audience — As You Speak (91-94)
o Characteristics of a Message (105-107) o Patterns of Organization (113-115) o Collaborating (132-134) o Robert Kennedy’s Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. (156-157) o Avoid the Traps (171-174)
o Be Collaborative (191-193) o Learning to Be “In the Moment” (196-198) o Pace Yourself (208-209) o Prepare, Prepare, Prepare (220-221)
In The Book of the Courtier (1528), Baldassare Castiglione introduces the concept of sprezzatura, defined by the author as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” As Humphrey explains “leading in the moment,” I was again reminded of that concept.” Throughout history, the most effective leaders were well-prepared to cope with unexpected developments, especially crises. They knew what to say and how to say it…they knew what to do and how to do it. They embody grace under duress.
Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need effective leaders at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. I agree with Judith Humphrey that being well-prepared to speak well in impromptu situations “has become one of the crucial skills that every leader today must master.” Just about everything they need to know is provided in this book.
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.