I honestly believe that an improvisation class should be mandatory for all aspiring leaders. Not for the performance aspect, but for the philosophical and experiential foundation it would provide. No matter how much you plan or prepare, life is improvisation. You can’t predict with 100% accuracy what the world will throw at you.
Thankfully, humans are outfitted with everything they need to thrive in an unpredictable world. That’s where improv comes in. There are certain rules that, if followed, allow you to take what ever life tosses your way and confidently create something authentic and compelling out of it. Here are a few of those rules and how they apply to leadership:
1. Trust. Don’t think; just do. There’s a wealth of creativity in every one of us. Improv helps you trust that creativity by stripping away the self-editing layers that cover us all. This requires large doses of trust and courage. As leaders it’s no different; we need to trust what’s inside us – and have the courage to offer it to our followers. This is the heart of authentic leadership.
2. Make others look good. When a cast of individuals performs selfishly, obsessing over their own personal performances, it stifles the work of the ensemble. But when each actor commits to helping the others do their best, the performance leaps off the stage with life and wit and humor. Your natural inclination is to make yourself look good. As a leader the best way to make yourself look good is to focus on making others (your boss, your peers, your followers) look good.
3. Don’t go for the joke. The laughter caused by the easy joke – the expected joke – never compares to the laughter that results from an organic joke – the one that just pops out. Good improvisers are open to what might happen. As leaders we need to be willing to let go of our “good ideas” and be open to what surfaces in our organization. Create a climate that encourages and rewards creativity – then trust it!
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Go take a class; see for yourself. Better yet, take your whole team!
Have you ever taken an improv class? How did you benefit from it?