After watching a play at the theatre the other day, I started to compare the production of this show to leading a team.  May seem strange, but bear with me!  During the show, it was possible to sense the “newbie” in the team: the one with less confidence, slouched posture, etc.  But I was also in a position to witness the support the rest of the cast members were providing behind the scenes, and how their confidence increased during the 2 hours.

Here’s how I started to think about leadership, and the process of show production:

THE LEADER (Director)

Characteristic The Theatre Director The Work Leader
All individuals Each individual plays a very different part – you wouldn’t want them to all be the same character, as that might just be a bit boring! Great leaders don’t expect everyone to be the same and do the same, they encourage and make the most of every member of the team
Their role It is not expected that the director will act all the parts, or can act all the parts.  The director encourages and directs the best out of each individual. Leaders don’t have to know everything about the team’s jobs in order to manage it.  A great leader brings together and encourages strengths from all the team (and which complement their own skills).
Challenge people Challenges and stretches the individuals to discover strengths/possible weaknesses.  Not afraid to reverse the decision if the challenge isn’t right for the individual, and to put them into a more suitable role. Ditto 

Plays to the strengths and encourages further development

Coaching Provides mentors and coaches where appropriate. Provides internal or external mentors and coaches to develop the necessary skill sets.
Motivation and engagement Provides feedback and understanding of their role in the production. 

Understands how to motivate each individual, and encourages and sets expectations of the cast and crew.

Provides feedback and communication that ensures that all in the team understand their role in the team’s effectiveness.Understands how to motivate each individual, and encourages and sets expectations of the team.


THE TEAM (Cast and crew)

Characteristic The Theatre Cast The Work Team
Teamwork If one person misses their lines, others won’t just stand back and watch, they will try to adjust the script.  They watch out for each other, and are ready to cope with the unusual or unexpected circumstances that may crop up. A great team will be looking out for each other, ready to take on unexpected circumstances, and adjust their working style to work better with the rest of the team, especially in times of challenge or change.
Celebrate Praise each other, look at the reviews, learn from each other and move on Learn from mistakes and successes, provide feedback and praise and celebrate success.
Resources As well as the actors, there are all the technical people that make the production a success.  Everyone is needed to make a show the audience want to see. Great teams know how important it is to build inter-departmental relationships in order to provide the internal and external customers with the full service they expect.
Feedback All staff in the production can provide vital information and feedback for the future success of the show. Internal and external customer feedback is taken into account, and change for the better implemented.


I’m not advocating that you have to be someone else.  Although we do often have a “work persona” which is different from the home one, and is the one who will make the effort to work with someone who isn’t necessarily their kind of person.

However, we all have different skills and an integral part to play in resolving the challenges that face us in our working environment.  Working together collaboratively will help provide a very successful outcome for those in the team and for those benefiting from the results.

Can you think of any other useful comparisons?

If you are interested in finding out how executive coaching or leadership development can assist you or your team, then please feel free to contact us for an initial discussion.

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