The Mother of All Speeches, or What Would Pacino Do? (WWPD)

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If you’re getting eye-rolls, or worse, people catnapping while you’re making that motivational team speech – then you’re clearly doing it wrong. Let Mr Pacino show the way.


Every leader needs to do ‘The Rant’ right. Do it wrong and you’ll get a roomful of listless employees who stay in the boardroom out of some misguided sense of loyalty or worse, fear. What you want; is their undivided attention – in the palm of your hands, their eyes unblinking, and their ears almost screaming for your words. Command and control the room, and your message, whatever it may be, will be accepted.

No one does the rant better than Al Pacino. Granted, as of late, the potency of his legendary speeches have somewhat become a ‘screaming man’ movie cliché, but the Pacino-style is now more relevant than ever. The workplace is in dire need of some manic inspiration, a tinge of corporate mad-motivation, and a healthy dash of crazy-eyed purposeful ballsy-ness.

The problem is that most leaders who try the Pacino-rant sound like they’re certifiably insane. On the surface, it simply looks like a shout-fest in a really bad long-distance relationship. But really, the Pacino delivery has elements of a great rallying speech – dramatic pauses, self-reflection and most surprising of all – a good dollop of cheesiness. Not bad cheese, but good, old-fashioned cheese that invokes empathy, courage and most importantly humour.

Just as there are numerous movie moments to cherry pick, here’s a three-point breakdown of one of Pacino’s most inspired cinematic rant – the infamous ‘Inch-By-Inch’ scene from Any Given Sunday (shoutout to my bro, Serge, who inspired this post). Be forewarned though, not everything in this scene is replicable to the corporate boardroom, let alone your team and its inherent dynamics – but even if you get 15% of the essence of the delivery – your people will be foaming at the mouth, and ready for world domination (WARNING: NSFW on speakers):

The 3-Point Low Down:

#1. Your message should have crystal-clarity: Simplify it down to ONE key message, but include your mission, value proposition and core principles as selling points, in one hella tight package. Impossible? No one said it would be easy.

What Pacino did: He made it irrefutably clear what the bloody objective was, and he even contextualized it with the pain and suffering involved in getting there. It was a no-bullshit approach to ‘no pain, no gain’. And the honesty cut through the room like a knife. Message, SENT.

#2. Champion freakin’ full throttle empowerment: Amplify the hell out of the ability to create opportunities – be a coach, ask questions, understand, engage and leverage on relationships – bro-hood where applicable – encourage inclusivity and facilitate white-knuckle drive from the ground up.

What Pacino did: His fiery pitch was the prize – for sporting fame, glory and greatness. The prize is there for the taking – do you have what it takes to get there? Do you want it badly enough? Shut up and go get it already.

#3. Ignite your team’s loins (not literally) – we’re talking passion here: Fan the fires of inspiration through lofty-visions of grandeur. Wrestle the minds and hearts of your army with imagination – and most importantly create meaning AND PURPOSE for each and every individual – did you miss that? GODDAMN PURPOSE.

What Pacino did: He revealed just enough of his weaknesses and vulnerability to gain empathy and Band-of-Brothers comradeship. Then he set them off with this new-found, rejuvenated brotherhood with a shout for an all-out Do OR DIE rally. LET’S DO THIS DAMMIT.

(Results may vary.)

WARNING: All other elements that make for great speeches are also in play, like – charisma, affability, poignancy and so on and so forth. Just because you can scream like Pacino DOES NOT guarantee success.


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Imran Johri

Imran is a media and communications geek with a media career spanning 18 years of collective experience in television, publications, communications as well as in marketing and digital strategy development. He's also an avid social media observer and indulges in feature writing projects as well as scriptwriting for stage and TV when he has the time. But he doesn't. He's got two kids.

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