As president, I did not give many speeches. I did not speak to the media very often. There were tough times and I wanted to give all I could to keep temperatures lower and not exacerbate the situation. But that is not how I was most of my career.
From the time that I was 23 and first ran for office, I basically took the attitude of ’I will say yes to anyone who lets me speak or invites me to speak’. In fact, I would often get as many as 12 speeches a day and I do not mean from a studio or through Skype. I had to get on my horse and go to different venues to speak and that is how I got to be a better speaker. That is how I got to the point where I was confident and comfortable debating Stephen Douglas and many other luminaries. My name is Abraham Lincoln.
One of the big misconceptions about Lincoln is that he was a man of few words. The Gettysburg Address is only 2 minutes long and he is not someone who enjoys speaking that much. The truth could not be further from that. He enjoyed speaking very much. He was known as a great story teller. That is how he created such a bond with so many of his constituents and that is how he rose to power. That is how he got a major party nomination.
It is not just about the quality of his speeches, although he certainly had very thoughtful speeches behind which there was a lot of planning and logical preparation which is why his addresses are still studied today. But it was also the sheer quantity of speeches that he delivered. When you speak 12 times a day, you get better and better at it.
So if you want to be a great leader, you need to be a great speaker. And to be a great speaker it is not just the quality of the speeches but also the quantity that you need to speak. You don’t necessarily have to speak 12 times a day but you need to speak often.