Q: Why do people think it’s a bad thing to hire a speechwriter?
A: Damned if I know.
I don’t want the CEOs of the companies I invest in to spend their precious time scribbling speeches. I want them to be out there CEO-ing, using their talents to do what they do best. Hire me and let me do what I do best.
Now, personally, I can’t imagine hiring someone to write a speech for me. I do it for other people; when the need arises, I do it for myself. But if my plumbing should spring a leak, I’m certainly not going to fire up the solder gun myself. (If that’s what you do for leaky pipes.) I’ll call the plumber, stat.
My motto has always been, “Hire the best people you can find and pay them what they’re worth.” But I might be slightly biased in that regard.
Outsource so you can focus on the big stuff
Now, you can’t outsource everything. A speechwriter can write stirring sentences, but they’ll only be effective and memorable if you deliver them well.
As we saw in the first presidential debate between Secretary Clinton and Mr. T, there’s a reason candidates prepare and (ahem) rehearse. By the way, if you think writing your own speech is a get-out-of-rehearsal-free card, think again. You still have to stand up and say the words out loud, many times, before you can deliver them credibly onstage.
I imagine that most of the people who think it’s a bad thing to hire a speechwriter have never had to stand up in front of a crowd (much less a crowd with cameras) and speak coherently for more than a minute. It’s not an easy thing to do.
One of the things that separates great leaders from technocrats is that the leaders know how to delegate—and who to trust with the work. In the decades since he left the White House, Jimmy Carter has proven to be a great human being and humanitarian. But as President, he seemed like the Micromanager-in-Chief, even concerning himself with minutiae like tennis court schedules.
Still, he did have a speechwriter. More about that another day.