Who Were The Best and Worst Communicators of 2010?

Last Updated Dec 14, 2010 6:33 PM EST

Nothing defines a leader more than their communication style and effectiveness. How we're perceived is often subject to change, though. If we need lessons we don't need to look any further than this (admittedly subjective) list of the Best and Worst Communicators of 2010 from the world of politics, entertainment, sports and the news.

This annual list of best and worst communicators is from Decker Communications, a prominent San Francisco based executive communication training and coaching company that's been training-- and assessing-- leaders for over 30 years.

According to Ben Decker ( the company's President) and Kelly Decker (Executive Vice President) here is this year's somewhat surprising list of those who showed how the perception of their leadership is tied directly to their ability to communicate.

The Best

  • Chilean President Sebastian Pinera- Handled the media brilliantly while showing emotion, purpose, hope and brevity. Class without grandstanding. It didn't hurt that the miners got out alive.
  • Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown- more than just a pretty pickup truck.
  • Sandra Bullock- stayed classy amongst the muck.
  • Admiral Thad Allen- The coast guard commander showed that command of the facts trumps passion.
  • Florida Senator-elect Marco Rubio Nothing kickstarts a political career like a firebrand who can stay on point.
  • Luke Russert- communication skills aren't genetic but they can be learned through exposure.
  • Buster Posey- His aw-shucks manner and baby face were belied by monster numbers in the World Series. Talk needs to be supported by action.
  • Elizabeth Smart-coming out of a nightmare sounding collected and mature. Not many could achieve this.
  • Emmitt Smith- athletes aren't always able to make a transition from one career to another. Smith has managed that while maintaining his own style.
  • Steve Jobs- because it's some kind of federal law that he be included every year.
How the mighty have fallen- the worst of the year.
  • BP CEO Tony Hayward Defensive, whiny and now unemployed. You wanted your life back, there it is.
  • Ex-CEO of Lehman Brothers Dick Fuld No one looks good in the lights of a congressional hearing but this was a special kind of bad performance.
  • Multiple-way tie: Christine O'Donnell, Joe Miller, Alvin Greene and others not ready for the big time. While some flourish in the spotlight (Rubio, Brown) that same glare can expose others as pretenders.
  • British politician Gordon Brown- it's not just the somewhat boring speaking style, it's the inability to shut up, just making things worse. The Prime Minister's office was his job to lose, and he did it.
  • Mel Gibson- just stop.
  • Arizona Governor Jan Brewer- usually a good communicator, but one bad night in a debate can destroy years of hard-won credibility.
  • Eric Massa- no one better demonstrated the futility of trying to shout down attacks on one's character through volume and quantity instead of facts.
  • ACORN BEO Bertha Lewis- according to the Deckers, she's proof that eloquence and style can't outweigh an avalanche of bad press.
  • Senator Harry Reid- you saw the campaign footage, right? Maybe not the worst, but the campaign spotlight made him hard to ignore on this list.
  • President Barack Obama- Over reliance on the teleprompter, a speaking cadence made for parody and a professorial style haven't allowed him room for the oratorical skills that had him on the top of the "best" list in 2006 and 2008. No one better demonstrates how closely the perception of competence is tied to communication style or how fragile those perceptions can be.
Certainly leaders are often at the mercy of circumstances and events (defending an oil spill is a nigh impossible job, let's face it) but how they tell their story and carry themselves can make or break a campaign, a company or a team.

How well does your communication style mirror your leadership effectiveness?

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