One of the many privileges of leadership is being able to influence pace, direction, innovation and delivery, supported, of course, by enabling management systems.
The best leaders I have worked with (deliberate use of ‘with’ as opposed to ‘for’) have been those who have recognised and drawn out both aspects and melded them.
I once attended an acting masterclass by one of the great British Actors of our time. He described how being the best actor and director he can be comes through drawing his real character out from behind the role. This is a very high order skill and requires a considerable degree of intelligence, self awareness, training, resilience and adaptability. It can move the actor from reading the lines, moving around the set to actually owning the scene, the act, the play. I remember seeing a production of King Lear at the Young Vic in London. We sat in a round as Willard White, Imogen Stubbs and Ian Mckellan drew us into the play. The atmosphere was electric and at the end of the performance there was a moment of complete silence before the applause. The cast and audience were as one. Amazing!
So I see my core leadership responsibility is to keep learning how to be an actor and director to the best of my ability; to balance staying true to the play by reading the lines whilst contributing my own interpretation to the production, and enabling my cast and production team to be empowered to not just perform but own the stage with confidence, empowerment and opportunity.
To do this I am having to dig really deep into my own personality traits, learn more about them and share them candidly with myself and my work mates. Bringing the real me out, warts and all, exploring my many weaknesses, less of capabilities is to be truthful, scary. However, to be a better actor and director, the authentic leader in my version of the play, is something that I think I must do.
A part of this is for me to talk about my mental health and wellbeing story, write my lines about it, and start to grow in confidence in saying those lines. As I’m writing this I still feel very nervous about sharing my personal story of illness and the long and never ending road to being in a better place. However, saying is a start and many of my work mates have begun to share their stories with me too.
The lines we read, the stages we perform on, the plays we act, in public service, are some of the hardest to master anywhere, and more often than not, in our plays the audience does not want to be sat in the stalls either!
I won’t be an Oscar or BAFTA winner but the art of leadership, bringing our own interpretations to the acts, scenes and stages is really hard and an absolute privilege.
As one of, if not the greatest thespian Frankie Howerd one recited; “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy”.
Article by Nick Page – Chief Executive, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council