Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s low-key, unflashy and seemingly un-politician-like style is arguably what originally endeared him to Labour supporters in the leadership ballot nearly eight months ago reports Pagefield Academy Faculty member, Caroline Goyder.
However, it is this very style that has left him ill equipped for the colossal challenge he faces.
Political public speaking demands that every phrase, word and breath be factually correct, consistent in message and spoken with confident yet gracious delivery.
Corbyn’s public speaking journey as leader of the Labour Party has been far from smooth.
His abilities for the past eight months have been tested on a weekly basis at the political pageant that is PMQs.
Until very recently, Corbyn’s approach has been viewed as ‘scattergun’, picking issues seemingly at random and unrelated to the political agenda that week.
However, in recent weeks we have seen an improvement in Corbyn’s public speaking performances.
In one of his latest encounters with the PM, he shrewdly exploited Tory divisions over forced academisation, adding pressure that will have undoubtedly contributed to the U-turn confirmed by Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan MP, earlier this month.
While Corbyn has arguably begun to master some of the basic content rules for PMQs – using all six questions in PMQs to successfully pressure the PM on one issue – there is still a lot to be desired in his delivery.
He is often caught off guard when David Cameron offers any rebuttal and becomes flustered – his knee-jerk reactions exposing his anxiety and calling into question his ability as an orator and a leader.
What Corbyn needs is ‘stable equilibrium’.
Stable equilibrium is defined in physics as ‘a state in which the body tends to return to its original position after being disturbed’.
Stability – emotionally, psychologically, physically – is essential to gravitas and at the moment, Corbyn lacks that stability. I learned most about this principle from a coach nicknamed ‘Yoda’.
Yoda teaches his clients that you have to be aware of and able to lead yourself before you effectively lead others.
Leadership of the self starts with knowing yourself. As Yoda told me, self-awareness is key. But how do you develop awareness and stability, so that you can find your grace when under fire?
It is all about finding your centre of gravity.
Above all you must trust the ground beneath your feet. Anxiety, fear, self-consciousness and tension rise up the body.
The simplest and most powerful antidote is to get grounded. That’s why gravity, that much maligned field force, is at the heart of gravitas.
Gravity gives you gravitas.
The stillest person in the room often has the most power and presence. And the field force that is gravity requires contact.
A constant supporting force transfers from the earth’s surface and supports our weight, from the bones of our feet to bones that are not in contact with the earth.
Which begs the question – why aren’t we all grounded?
We become unstable, our high centres of gravity allowing us to be easily toppled.
Corbyn needs to find his stability, his ‘groundedness’ and his gravitas.
Only then will he be able to free himself of his anxiety and tension, articulate his message clearly, lead his party’s political narrative and put across its plan to the public in a coherent and compelling manner.
Caroline Goyder is the author of The Gravitas Method and a member of The Pagefield Academy Faculty
You can book a place on Caroline Goyder’s Pagefield Academy Course, ‘Presentation and Public Speaking’ on June 9th, 2016 here.