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The Leader-Choreographer – Aim for Emotional Impact


Was doing some coaching last week and met a young lady who had impressive skills in arranging events. She’s a leader but doesn’t know it yet. And her lesson is a good one for all of us.

She arranges conferences for her company. But although young she has already migrated to making these conferences into experiences. People at her conferences don’t sit; they stand. That makes them mix things up and talk to people they would never talk to otherwise. They have to move, instead of sitting down and going to sleep. Movement is good; sitting is bad, just about always.

There’s a broader lesson here. When we talk about leadership we tend to talk about the importance of the message, how to use talent and so on.

But there’s another dimension that only the flopheads in Hollywood really understand. That is that leadership is about creating experiences for people that will motivate, excite and inspire them.

The reason that people get inspired is not usually that they believe. It’s that they are inspired. And if you give them an experience that impacts them at the emotional level, no matter how cheesy, you will win a convert over to your cause that you won’t by giving them a briefing to read.

I hate using Steve Jobs as an example because he’s so hackneyed as an exemplar. But you had to give it to him. Whether it was with his press conferences, his jeans and T-short, his impresario-like acts berating his employees, he always provided an experience. And he knew the value of choreography using it all the time to create effects, even though we didn’t know he was choreographing all of them.

The best leaders are natural choreographers. Often they are impresarios like Richard Branson or Larry Ellison. And you don’t have to be a flaming extrovert like them to do it. Even Warren Buffett in his older age has assumed choreographer-like tendencies even though he is a deep introvert.

And being a choreographer-leader doesn’t mean that you have to be into son et lumiere, although it might well help. Choreographer-leadership might also include some of the following:

  • Bringing employees together in unexpected but choreographed ways
  • Bringing natural innovators into bastions of stability to shake them up a little
  • Integrating walking environments with working environments
  • Doing planned but choreographed simulations for your employees with them, either acting out situations or otherwise

I think that one of the big problems in modern leadership, especially in large organizations is that it is over-intellectualized, too structured and over-analyzed. Unless you can meet people at an emotional level and give them an experience rather than just a lesson, you probably won’t get the compelling leadership impact you actually want.

So the lesson is, if you want to be a better leader, you also have to think like a choreographer.







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