Have you noticed that people with impressive voices tend to become leaders? I first noticed this during my corporate years. Every male executive seemed to have a voice that resonated on more than one level, as if two or three people were talking simultaneously when they opened their mouths. I know that's a poor explanation so I just went to Youtube and searched for a CEO speech. The second one I viewed had the distinctive "leader voice."


Sometimes you hear a guy with a leader voice in a non-leader job and it immediately seems out of place. I wonder if the voice quality makes leadership more feasible or if the body chemistry that promotes leadership (say testosterone levels for the sake of argument) create an excellent voice as a side benefit.

There are plenty of leaders with sketchy voices, of course. Bill Gates comes to mind, as does the first President Bush. Obviously there's more than one way to get to the top. But I wonder if we will ever see a medical procedure to turn normal voices into leadership voices for the purpose of furthering a career.

My guess is yes.

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Feb 6, 2009
What about a different path for causation? When I'm confident about a topic, I frequently speak and project in a deeper, more powerful voice. Maybe the strong leaders have the confidence to speak deep from their diaphragm and that makes them sound differently?

Bill Gates in an interesting case because his empire was literally built on geekiness, so sounding like a geek isn't a liability for him. I don't know how to explain #41's voice aside from the fact that he was running against Dukakis in 1988, so maybe he just got away with it.
Feb 6, 2009
I am a business student and have my fair share of working with people with squeaky voices. I try to be as objective as I can but it's often more difficult to listen to these people than those with the impressive voices. People with good voices get heard, and that's what leaders do, though whether they make sense or not is another matter. Those without the benefit of a nice voice does not mean they can't be leaders, it's just harder.

I have a very deep voice, and when I talk, I realise people listen. I sure hope I am more than just an impressive voice.
Feb 6, 2009
Not sure I would call Bill Gates a 'leader'. Have you read 'The Road Ahead' - or for that matter, found anything produced by Microsoft that wasn't 'innovated' elsewhere? (Oh how I hate how that word has been devalued...)

You're right about the voice though - although I think it's more a question of eloquence and a true belief in what you're saying. Strong leaders (Hitler, Churchill, Obahma(?)) are such, because they truly believe in what they are saying (rightly or wrongly). No matter how well trained, weak leaders (Bush, Gates, Bush etc) could never project the same oratory skill because (consciously or not), they doubt they are being truthful to themselves or their morals.
Feb 6, 2009
You are surely right that having a sonore voice helps to become a leader in society. So does:
- being tall,
- being smarter than average,
- having more energy than others.

What else?

Feb 6, 2009
Hell, I'd love a Don LaFontaine type voide. That'd be great in everyday life.
Feb 6, 2009
not so much a comment as a "things people say"
Just in via company email
"Hi folks

There has been a telephone found in the East Wing locker room. If you have lost it, please contact me.


I've withheld the senders name, for obvious reasons.
Feb 6, 2009
Normally, you are impressing me with your surprising insights, but this one seems to be a logical fallacy. You observed that leaders have impressive voices. And then you make the statement "people with impressive voices tend to become leaders". Wrong. This is exactly the sort of logical fallacy which is applied in politics and such, to dull people's minds.

Consider this: You observe that hooligans have impressive voices. Conclusion: People with impressive voices tend to become hooligans. You observe that construction workers have impressive voices. Conclusion: People with impressive voices tend to become construction workers ...

The only valid conclusion you could draw would be that an impressive voice might be a *prerequisite* to become a leader (as well as a hooligan or a construction worker), but not that an impressive voice automatically sets people on a special career path. And in fact I have seen many people with your so-called "leader voice" doing very unimpressive things, and it did not seem out of place at all.

Cheers and thank you for your extraordinary comments anyway.
Feb 5, 2009
Just a formatting note. When I scroll down looking for comments by me, what I see is comment after comment by "User Name" (large font). I would just take out the User Name thing and put people's actual user names in the big font.
Feb 5, 2009
I don't know anything about voices but this bollywood movie trailer is hilarious! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgN7157gHmg
Feb 5, 2009
i've heard that margaret thatcher had speech lessons so that she sounded like a prime minister rather than a grocer's daughter. i think it was mostly about making her sound upper class, but there was some timbre stuff too.
Feb 5, 2009
Whatever kind of voice high-status people have will be considered impressive...

I'm just here to see if Scott ever saw <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/magazine/11Neurolaw.t.html?pagewanted=5&_r=2&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink">this</a> when it came out:

<i>Libet detected brain activity suggesting a readiness to move the finger half a second before the actual movement and about 400 milliseconds before people became aware of their conscious intention to move their finger. Libet argued that this leaves 100 milliseconds for the conscious self to veto the brain’s unconscious decision, or to give way to it — suggesting, in the words of the neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, that we have not free will but “free won’t.” </i>
Feb 5, 2009
I am a woman and I know that my deep loud voice has greatly help me throughout my life. Women with soft squeaky voices--I can't stand listening to them. Who would want to follow them.
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Feb 5, 2009
In theatre that resonate voice that carries well is called "projection" and it is a learnable skill. I find I naturally use projection when I am angry with my kids or husband and want to make sure they pay attention to me. Then I tried an experiment a few months ago to train myself to use resonance all the time, since everyone was complaining I was mumbeling. It ended up making my family rather jumpy because they associated it with my being angry.
Feb 5, 2009
The voice makes the leader? That must be Darth Vader's trick even though he ended up doing the promos for CNN in his retirement to top up his pension :-)

Seriously though, given your recent condition Scott, does this mean you're not a leader?

Oh, I get it .. you're a THOUGHT leader!

The Unexpected Traveller
Feb 5, 2009
Happily, I fail see to the correlation.
Maybe those leaders with impressive voice are just more memorable, which
makes it appear this way ?
And I by no means claim that the correlation to actual skill is any higher....
Feb 5, 2009
Huh. I can turn on a "leadership voice" at will, but I almost never use it. I don't particularly want to be in management, though, but maybe it could be used just to get a higher position without having to manage people.

If I start using it at work, people will probably look at me funny - I don't know how to transition into it...
Feb 5, 2009
Confidence and self-assuredness affects the way you speak. If you're a man, it definitely makes you speak in a deeper tone and from a lower place in your chest - the words almost get propelled up from below, rather than having to be squeezed out from up high.

Most likely, the voice you hear from leaders is affected by feelings of competence and power on the part of those in the position. If either are lacking, then they might start sounding more desperate. Bill Gates is definitely an exception, though I don't think he ever sounded desperate.
Feb 5, 2009
Look into NLP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuro-linguistic_Programming).

I imagine as people practice speaking, you start to automatically do this because you notice that people respond better to your ideas. This is also why they all seem to have the same sounding voice.
Feb 5, 2009
But most mafia dons have raspy psycho voices. Raspy psycho voice commands more respect than deep baritone any day.
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Feb 5, 2009
I hate to actually be less cynical than anyone, but doesn't it seem that natural gogetters and leaders, if they didn't have a natural "leadership voice" might take the time to develop one? I know that over the past few years I've improved my pubic speaking voice drastically, and have also developed a "command" voice when I need to get the attention of a crowd or group I'm leading. So perhaps it's something that a fair amount of good leaders develop if possible, while other people could change their voice to, but don't, because they don't have the motivation or reason to.
I'm sorry for being uncynical! I'll try not to do it again.
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