When the Director Takes Their Seat

I believe that if we only search for leadership truths in resources from the leadership and personal improvement section of the bookstore, we deprive ourselves of insight which exist beyond that realm. Innovative leadership calls us to always have our antenna up for approaches, metaphors and models in arenas that in no way purport themselves to be leadership laboratories. One such place provided an incredibly powerful learning for me in regard to the way managers are called to set their teams up for success. Several years ago I handed my ticket to the vendor and took my seat for a community production of “Annie Get Your Gun”. I was familiar with the venue and new the production’s director. At the appointed start time he walked to the microphone, thanked the cast and crew and reminded the audience of appropriate decorum. What he did next will remain with me always. He walked to his seat amongst the audience and enjoyed the show. This lesson in team preparation and leading from the back trumped 100 books or seminars on the subject. When he took that empty seat, I heard contentment, partnership and empowerment. This posture meant that at no point could he change the trajectory of the show. He was giving himself permission to abstain from running lines with the lead actors between scenes, hovering over the audio visual technicians or micro-managing the stagemaster. At that moment, when it would be altogether appropriate to be flooded with anxiety at the numerous details crucial to success, he expressed a robust sense of trust. Trust in his team-mates to be sure, but more precisely trust in his effort. He had in fact done a great deal to make sure the show had the best chance at being successful. What does leading from the back look like for you? Are there places where you can step out of the activity and observe the gears you’ve set in motion, knowing your investment of time, insight and encouragement are now gaining traction? The house lights are dimming…Take a seat.

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