Broadway Leadership July 24, 2009Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
Tags: Communication, Public Speaking
I recently spent a long weekend in New York City. Among other things, I was able to attend three Broadway shows in three nights. This is a rare treat; my love of Broadway theater goes back to my childhood. I was part of many productions in high school, even if my professional career (ahem!) never really took off the way I might have hoped.
Although I have come to accept that I will never win a Tony, I carry with me the lessons learned from my days on the stage of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School. Many of the core skills of the theater can help all of us be better leaders.
Leadership is about communication, and communication is about getting up in front of people. More people fear public speaking than dying, and the only way to overcome that fear is to get up and do it, over and over. If nothing else, being in a show will teach you how to get up in front of a group of strangers and do all sorts of foolish things. With that experience, making a simple business presentation is child’s play.
But effective communication is more than just getting up and speaking. Theater teaches you to face the audience, to keep your face in the lights, to project, to speak clearly, to wait for laughs and applause. You learn how to read an audience, and how to develop pacing and timing. These kind of communication skills will benefit anyone, but are a core component of every effective leader.
Theater experience goes beyond performing. As part of a troupe, actors rely on each other to deliver a unified performance. The analogies to business teams are obvious, but the subtleties of the stage bear repeating. Respect the other actors and give them their time in the spotlight. Don’t step on someone else’s lines (or applause!). When you sing and dance, since and dance together. And when you take a curtain call, make sure everyone gets to take a bow.
For many of us, gaining theater experience now is not an option, although community theater always beckons. As an alternative, organizations like Toastmasters can provide excellent training in public speaking. For our children, however, it is not too late to encourage them to try out for a play at school, or to get involved in some aspect of performing. The lifetime benefits of that experience will be invaluable.
Even if you will never walk the boards and feel the lights, you can always attend a performance, either on Broadway or when a touring company comes to your town. In this day of digital everything presented on screens we hold in our hands, it is entrancing to sit and watch live people sing, dance, and act along with live musicians playing live music. It is magical and inspiring, and it is something everyone needs to experience.
Never forget: every leader is a performer, whether you like it or not. Break a leg!