The Leadership Personality – An Actor’s Perspective!


“As Leaders, we are always on stage.  Every word, every action, every facial expression is being watched, analysed, and interpreted by a lot of people.  And the higher we go in leadership, the bigger is our audience”.

This is a key learning experienced in a “CorporateTheatre” workshop exercise on ‘The Leadership Personality.’  In this exercise, participants actually experience that a small, even playful shift in the body can influence their mind, and a small shift in the mind can influence the body – both in how the individual perceives herself as well as in how others perceive her.  Further we also experience that body language, while we can use it consciously to some extent, is mostly beyond our conscious control and non-verbal communication is received at the ‘gut’ level by the receiver, beyond their conscious control.

This being so, the most effective way to harness the power of body language is to experience the content of our intended communication.  For instance, if we want our teams to experience Passion, don’t just talk about it; experience it.  If we don’t experience it ourselves, no amount of talking about passion will transfer the passion to our teams.

These insights are directly validated in Nick Morgan’s article, ‘How to Become an Authentic Speaker’, in Harvard Business Review – November 2008.  Here are a few excerpts:

“If your spoken message and your body language are mismatched, audienceswill respond to the non-verbal message every time.  Gestures speak louder than words.”

“Indeed, research shows that people’s natural and unstudied gestures are often indicators of what they will think and say next.”

“Although audiences are not consciously aware of this . . . . their innate ability to read body language leads them to feel that something’s wrong – that the speaker is inauthentic.”

Here comes the relevance of theatre.  Actors, irrespective of their own age, emotion, or nature, must give audiences an authentic expression of the character that they portray within the emotional and narrative framework ofthe play.  In order to do this actors go through rigorous work with time tested tools and techniques that help them to internalise the emotion of the character so that it manifests relevantly in the character’s personality.  There is no manipulation here.  The most powerful technique, as I have experienced through nearly 5 decades of performing on stage, is to experience the character moment to moment.  This happens when the actor is able to drop all baggage of her own personality and become a neutral, and even detached energy space that allows the character to manifest in its full authenticity and intensity.

“CorporateTheatre” is not training or even learning.  It is more about unlearning the baggage and discovering the immense power and possibilities that already exist within us as individuals, as teams, and as organisations.  As this unlearning happens, it is fascinating to see how even those who have never stepped on stage before can deliver performances that move audiences to tears and laughter and the ultimate tribute of pin-drop silence.

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