Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal cited a new study showing that the way you talk—your pitch, tone, and vocal tics—strongly influences how others see you. For example, if you have a quiet voice, you're seen as weak; if your tone is high-pitched, immature; and if you ... um, like, uh ... stumble over words, not so smart. In fact, the study shows that your "voice matters twice as much as the content of the message," and that "a strong, smooth voice can enhance your chances of rising to CEO." Which means that perhaps your voice, and not your skill, is stifling your career.
However, if you do suffer from a poor speaking voice (the Journal accurately points out that most people with a poor voice don't know it, so to know for sure if you're vocally challenged you'll have to ask honest colleagues, friends, or family) I wouldn't run out and pay for voice lessons just yet. Not all CEOs, not even the wealthiest, are blessed with a deep, steady, commanding voice.
To that end, below are three video clips of some of the most prominent chief executive officers on Wall Street, along with a brief discussion of each respective voice. After you watch each clip, I invite you to decide for yourself which CEO sounds most like a CEO.
1. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO
Don't be fooled by Blankfein's new handsome, salt and pepper beard. His is not a voice you want to immitate at all times. In the video below, Goldman's chief seems to be straining to lower his high-pitched voice, not to mention he doesn't seem all that comfortable in his own skin (or, at least, not that comfortable to be reading from cue cards). Also note that Blankfein's Brooklyn accent (he was born and bred in the borough) creeps into his sentences every once in a while, and I can't imagine a Brooklyn accent tests all that well in the study cited by the Journal. However, what does help Blankefin is that he has extremely white teeth.
2. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase CEO
Often considered the most charismatic Wall Street chief, Dimon isn't without his vocal issues. Note that in the below clip he stammers over words several times, and he seems to try to distract his listeners by employing wild hand gestures while he speaks. Still, Dimon's voice does possess a nice pitch and volume, and he sure knows how to stifle a belch in mid-sentence (at 4:39).
3. James Gorman, Morgan Stanley CEO
If you didn't know that Gorman comes from the land Down Under, you might, at first listen to the clip below, think Morgan Stanley's chief is British. That is, his Australian accent doesn't sound to my ears to be all that obvious (then again, I often mistake Aussies for Kiwis, and Kiwis for Brits, so perhaps your ears are better tuned). In any case, Gorman, perhaps due to that accent, gives the illusion that he's a highly intelligent, serious man whom you want on your team and perhaps want to lead you through a recession. However, don't break out that checkbook so fast. When Gorman begins to get heated up a bit (especially from 3:13 to 3:20, which I recommend playing again and again for full effect) his voice rises to an unpleasantly high pitch, and the gentlemanly tone is tossed out the window.
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