Theatre and Business: 10 Training Points
As the founder and artistic director of a successful theater school I was asked to create a Executive Leadership Seminar conveying valuable lessons that a business leader could learn from an actor. Aside from the obvious points of clear speech, focus and body language I was intrigued by the deeper aspects of presentation, interaction and responsibility.
Here is my list:
1. Do it. The actor learns by doing his art. The mastery of this art form starts with 100% physical and mental commitment plus constant practice. Learning by doing. Consequently if I wanted a business person to learn to be a leader, he must be asked to do it, take risks, present himself before his peers and experience that mistakes are experiments and not failures. This is the first step in truthfulness. “I am who I am at this moment.”… now how can I improve.
2. Prepare. An actor learns to prepare in advance – physically, vocally and mentally. The leaders were given scripts in advance to memorize. It was interesting to see that everyone accepted the challenge, but only a handful of the participants were adequately prepared.
3. Be Responsible. You are not alone. An actor must communicate with other actors, the director and the creative team as well as the audience. So it must be with a business leader. You are only as strong as the team around you. Every business has setbacks and some of those team members may be the ones that save your reputation later. Take care of them.
4. Get Vocal. We cannot imagine an actor without speech or an opinion of his work. The leader must find his transparency and openly express his views even when the language is difficult.
5. Listen. Listen. Listen. We recognize an authentic performance in an actor when he reacts truthfully to the other actor. It all starts with really hearing what has been said even though we think we have heard it 100 times. Put down the mobile phone and truly listen.
6. Add synergy. An actor knows that the sum of the ensemble will create an innovative and unique performance. The business leader must learn to be aware of the daily changes around him and how it all combines to create better ideas.
7. Be Empathetic. An actor takes an outside viewpoint to understand a role. He searches for the characters’ humanity. This highly significant aspect is often overlooked in management because the focus is on productivity and sales. Empathetic relationships are enriching for a company and it begins with the executive leadership.
8. Awaken the Body. The actor respects the importance of his physical being. It is the fundament for his work. Likewise a business leader must project energy and vitality though his body in order to lead others.
9. Convince with Passion. The actor chooses his profession because he has to do it. It is work, hobby and play all in one. The leader can only convince and inspire if he is passionately connected to his business and his role as a leader.
10. Laugh and Play. An actor values a child’s innocence and inquisitiveness. It opens doors to all kinds of creativity and enthusiasm in his work. The business leader who adds this quality to his job will fill his workplace with lightness and humor. With the increased stress of competition – what employee wouldn’t delight in some humor and playfulness?