Like it or Not; As a Leader/Manager You are on Stage All the Time


“How little the public realizes what a girl must go through before she finally appears before the spotlight that is thrown upon the stage.”

                                         Florenz Ziegfeld


Now and then, if we are fortunate, there may be presented to us the opportunity to see a master as they perform. Less often and even more fortunate are those occasions when we have a chance to work with a master as they pursue their craft. Last Friday in Seattle at the Green Lake Theater, along with nine other lucky travelers I worked with a master.

I became acquainted with Kimberly Davis back in 2007 shortly after the publication of my first book, THRIVE. Through a series of serendipitous occurrences, me moving near to where she was living in Seattle, she and her husband moving to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and me securing a contract with an agency in Fort Worth, we did wind up working on a project together in the spring and summer of 2008. It was my project and I asked Kimberly to assist and she actually ended up as the co-creator of a wonderful initiative we put together for “at risk” youth in the Fort Worth school district. Unfortunately the funding for that program was canceled shortly after our pilot phase. At that point, sadly,my working relationship with Kimberly ended. I returned to Washington to begin a new phase of my professional life and Kimberly, well she didn’t miss a beat.

Shortly after our project in Fort Worth was canceled I started receiving “newsletters from Kimberly letting me know about her knew venture, On Stage Leadership.  The name is probably a dead giveaway, yes it is leadership development wrapped inside the trappings of theater. But rather than give away any further details I’ll just tell you that the experience was one I’ll draw upon for years to come.

From the time I began receiving Kimberly’s newsletters I knew I wanted to participate in her program. Our brief experience working together in Fort Worth had let me know that she is a rare and special talent. While she did a marvelous job assisting me in co-creating the Texas project I knew there was “her work” and I had hoped I would some day get to see her in her element.

Is there such a thing as “ridiculous authenticity?” If there is then Kimberly Davis is guilty of this character surplus. There is of course her theatrical training and I am sure she would be the first to admit to being a “drama queen” but in a way that is so engaging you just want more of whatever that is oozing from her being.

The tag line on the Onstage Leadership logo says “Get Real, Get Real Results” and I cannot think of anything I would like managers (who let’s face it we are all hoping will be leaders) to get more than REAL. On Friday that is what we worked on, getting real. On one hand it is sad that being REAL with each other is so challenging and on the other it was literally awesome to see this group of managers awaken to the possibility of power emanating from vulnerability. I could just see shoulders relaxing and tension draining from the faces of my fellow participants as one by one they came to the realization that what others wanted from them was not perfection, it was their humanity, something that over years of organizational life they had learned to keep in check, lest their emotions get the best of them.

During the course of our workshop last Friday Kimberly asked us some very tough questions:

  • Is your passion buried or near the surface?
  • Can you recall having said something to someone that made a difference?
  • Do you know the difference between your purpose and your tactics?
  • Who is counting on your for leadership?

Throughout the day we had multiple occasions to reflect on this last question, sort of a self assessment of customer satisfaction. We were all getting square with ourselves on whether we were honoring our positions (manager) or honoring the opportunity it presents us with (leadership) and getting clear that an “either or answer” is not satisfactory. Our organizations grant us our “managerness” and our followers grant us our leadership.

Somewhere during the course of the day I was reminded of something I know that I know. People come to work each day hoping for the opportunity to make a contribution and to be in some way recognized for making it. I say hoping because it is generally not at all clear that an employer is looking for anything more from us than simply doing what is asked. We all know that , day in and day out, simply doing what is expected is not worthy of the time of our lives. When we encounter someone, a leader, a regular human being clear about their purpose and willing to allow others to play at the top of their game we naturally gravitate to that opportunity. We will move obstacles to be near someone who values and validates our contribution. To do that for others, a contribution in itself we as managers must realize we are on stage all the time. The spotlight is a harsh critic, it is also a doorway for us being fully realized as human beings while serving as organizational archetypes.

  • What have you said to someone reporting to you that you know made a lasting impression? Consider that it may have been something not positive.
  • Who is counting on your for leadership?

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