Speech On Leadership

By · Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

At Taft Camp, as has been the case in any other federal prison where I’ve been held, I am responsible for creating my own opportunities to grow. My motivation is not to earn any meaningless certificates, or even to ignite hopes of advancing my release date. I strive for improvement because I find fulfillment in these preparations I make for the life I want to lead upon release.

Since I aspire to build a career in communications, preferably as a speaker, consultant, and writer, I must look for every opening to practice my craft. I spend several hours every day writing on my ongoing projects, and I devote time each week to helping other prisoners figure out strategies to use their time wisely. Speaking opportunities come less frequently, yet I’ve been successful in finding forums that allow me to write, practice, and deliver presentations in front of live‚Äďalbeit captive‚Äďaudiences.

This past week I wrote a speech that I called On Leadership. Some may find it presumptuous that a man who has been incarcerated since 1987 would have anything to offer on the subject of leadership. That was part of the challenge. This being a camp that holds many well-educated, white-collar offenders, with several former CEOs among us, I knew that some in my audience would question my qualifications to speak on such a topic. Many hours of preparation, however, imbued me with confidence. I felt a real sense of enthusiasm as I spread the lessons I have learned from my study of leadership.

I opened the speech with a disclaimer. Although I have not held formal positions of leadership, I explained, the study of leadership has helped me navigate my way through more than 20 years of confinement. By committing to the principles of leadership I have captained my own ship through the storms of adversity. Despite prolonged imprisonment, I have educated myself; I have earned an income and paid taxes; I have built a network of support; and most importantly, I have nurtured a thriving marriage. The study of leadership has propelled me to success in my environment. I felt a charge of energy as I related the ways that applying leadership principles could help those in my audience reach their fullest potential inside the boundaries of Taft Camp and beyond.

I structured the 40-minute speech in three sections. After discussing the importance of applying leadership principles to our own lives, I summarized what I had learned from three books I recently read on the subject. The first book was What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Then I discussed Launching a Leadership Revolution. Finally, I presented some salient points from Leadership Therapy: Inside The Mind of Microsoft. Following the book summaries, I brought the message home by showing how those in my audience could profit from those lessons today, in practical ways. Specifically, I suggested five areas in which they could grow, including:

  1. intellectual development
  2. physical well being
  3. financial stability
  4. emotional balance
  5. spiritual awareness

Following the prepared portion of the presentation, I invited those in the audience to question me. In so doing, I opened an opportunity to practice quick thinking with extemporaneous responses. Those are the types of experiences that allow me to achieve multiple goals. By preparing, practicing, and delivering speeches, I am able to share information with those in this community; I am able to develop communication skills further; and I am able to prepare in meaningful ways for the career I want to lead upon release.

Living in prison is not so different from confronting other adversities. We can overcome limitations or complications by being very realistic about where we are. At the same time, we must live with optimism and enthusiasm with where we are going. We must believe, believe, believe. Then we must create our own opportunities to success.

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