Business Leadership

Leadership as Theatre

Part of being a good leader is acting like a leader. Oddly enough, acting skills are an important part of leadership.

Everyone knows that small business leaders need a broad range of skills to be effective.

Leadership as Theatre

Marketer, cheerleader, vision-setter - these titles are all part of a business leader's standard job description. But what about actor? Can your acting skills actually improve your leadership ability?

It's impossible to succeed in business without basic skills like communication, industry expertise, and vision. But there are other, more subtle skills that can also be used to your advantage. For example the ability to act or play roles can be useful in a variety of leadership contexts. But the use of acting skills doesn't mean being disingenuous as a leader. Instead, it is simply leveraging your ability to use the tools of the theater as a method of communicating your point in a more meaningful way.

There are limitless opportunities for leaders to employ theater in business. To help you get started, here are a few examples of how you can use your dramatic skills to undergird your role in the workplace.

To Instill Confidence

The business world demands confidence in its leaders. But since many business leaders lack confidence in their leadership abilities, the illusion of confidence can often fill the gap and buy time for the leader to gain more experience. Although no one expects you to be able to completely control your company's destiny, your ability to convey an attitude of confidence will put their mind at ease - even when you don't feel as confident as they think you do.

To Motivate & Energize

Sometimes it is important for leaders to build hype about a new product, project, or marketing campaign. When the time comes, you will be expected to pull out all the stops and give a masterful performance that motivates and energizes the troops to hit the ground running. Whether the project excites you or not doesn't matter. What does matter is that everyone else perceives you as being highly enthusiastic about it.

To Moderate Crises

When a crisis hits, many people in the company immediately adopt a sky-is-falling mentality. Depending on the severity of the crisis, that may indeed be the case. But as the leader, your job is to exert a moderating influence in the midst of the crisis. No matter how desperate things appear, you need to play the role of the calm, cool, and collected captain standing at the helm of the ship. If you fail to play your part convincingly, the dam will break and even the level-headed people in your company will break into full-blown panic mode.

To Reinforce Values

Your company's core values are more than just words on paper. They are the set of ideals around which you organize all of your company's activities. Hopefully, it isn't much of a stretch for you to exemplify your company's core values in the way you conduct yourself in the workplace. But you can take it a step further by looking for opportunities to demonstrate your values in unplanned, yet dramatic ways. For example, if your company values customer service and you happen to overhear a customer complaining about something related to your business, take the initiative and resolve the situation. Your employees will interpret your unplanned drama as a sign that you really do take customer service seriously.

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Are most good leaders good actors? What's your take on leadership? Share your comments below.

  • Paul Nicholas posted on 2/11/2009
    Paul Nicholas
    The perception of "objective reality" is a subjective experience - all we know or can ever know happens inside our heads. Leaders shape their followers perceptions and so create "new realities". This is exactly what happens in theatre. Generally speaking most leaders are actors, and tend to have private and public faces that are in some ways different. All leaders know and understand the changes of face or mask needed to lead effectively. In that sense all leaders are hypocrites - the very word comes from the Greek for "actor" - but they achieve this with sincerity and without losing integrity.

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