What Improvisational Theater Teaches Leaders

One of the great loves in my  life has always been performing especially improv-theatreimprovisational theater and dance. 

I started studying music, voice, and acting at age 9,  and continue to use the skills and lessons learned in rehearsals, performances,  and on stage in my early days, in my daily and professional life as a teacher, coach, and speaker.

Several weeks ago, I needed an emotional  lift, and was invited to  improvisation workshop by  a true master who has been teaching and performing for over 40 years.  He called it Access Your Muse~ Healing Through Improvisation.  It could easily have been titled Access Your Wisdom~ Leadership Through Improvisation. 

I had a blast, and realized that the principles he shared with us and the experiential activities he led us through were powerful reflections of leadership and life mastery.

These are some of the basic principles in Improvisational Theater

Dare to Fail- In Improvisational Theater, since there is no script, actors take risks in every moment, following impulses and intuition. The same is true of leaders- we move forward fearlessly into uncharted territory, doing things that have never been done before.

Make the Other Person Look Good- In Improvisation, your intention is to make others look good on stage, so that they can shine and continue to access the pulse of creativity that is coming forth on the spot , in the moment.  True leaders build trust among their people by recognizing their contributions and efforts and focusing on their people’s strengths. When our people shine, organizations succeed.

Accept Endowments- A basic principle in Improvisation is to SAY YES- don’t block another’s movements, responses, words, or gestures; Rather you add to it, augment it, reinforce it, even if the “scene”  goes into another completely different direction.  As leaders, we say yes when we listen to our people and  encourage their creativity.  We give our people autonomy to be part of the solution. We don’t block, but rather, we say GO FOR IT!

Dare to Not Know-Embracing the unknown is essential for any improvisational actor, as it is for any organizational leader or entrepreneur.  We forge ahead with our vision, our plans, and our teams. We may make mistakes. For another perspective on the Practice of Not Knowing, click here.

Accept Offers-In theater, accepting an offer is an opportunity to practice the art of improvisation. As entrepreneurs and leaders, we continuously seek opportunities for new ventures, partnerships, and growth. 

Improvisational Theater in the workplace is a great value add to any leadership, communication, team development program.