Thursday, February 5, 2009

Acting, Directing, Effective Business Leadership

Based on my experience as actor, director, and aspiring effective business leader, I'd like to share a few thoughts after the Presentation Skills module over the last two days in Foundations of Management. It's safe to say: I love the AGSM partnership with NIDA and their Corporate Training element. Being trained by professional actors to use our bodies as effective public speakers makes perfect sense to me, as long as certain distinctions are made.

A difference lies between my world, where theater, film, and the MBA are a perfect match, and the real world out there were most of us come from and to which most of us will return. We've been taught the last two days as actors, essentially by directors. Moving forward we will apply that to a much more complex system of demands in business. I'll share with you my take on the similarities and differences between Acting, Directing, and Effective Business Leadership.

To establish credibility (or something like that), Louvst is a 90 minute film I wrote, directed, and eventually acted, as is often the case in independent film. (Need an extra body in front of the camera? No problem! The writing and directing is done and I'm just standing here, so heck, why not?) Louvst was an amazing experience that stretched me in various simultaneous directions, similar to others who have taken on a large project requiring them to learn new skills along the way.

Acting is being told by a director what to do. My definition of acting is a process of direct memorization of content, matched with a physical and emotional delivery convincing enough to solicit a mental and visceral response in the audience. It is an art form, bringing familiarity to the human experience, where the actor is given power by the director in order to gain the trust of the audience.

Directing is telling actors (and anyone else on a set) what to do. (Producing is making all the other crap happen to pull off a film, another responsibility I've shared with others, but that's another story.) This requires trust usually acquired by experience, and only for the length of time required to accomplish the film, play, or workshop. Directing experience is gained either purely by the audacity of having creative vision and making the time for it, or developing an opportunity to get paid doing it.

Effective Business Leadership, on the other side of the brain, requires the insanely long list of technical "hard" skills and social "soft" skills taught in an MBA program, practiced over a lifetime, and perfected hardly ever. I can't say much about that now, but one aspect is the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator or MBTI, and similar metrics used in "putting the right person in the right seat on the bus" as Brett Smith would say in his role as President of Counter Culture Coffee.

above: MBTI Personality Types for the AGSM MBA class of 2010

The trust given to an Effective Business Leader, lasting up to their entire lifetime, is earned as a result of mastering, to the best of one's abilities, the long list of various skills necessary. One of these skills is public speaking, for which we have been expertly directed by Natasha McNamara and Gerry Sont, professional actors who know their content. When applied along with the mastery of the course content, these skills may earn us the right to take a bow after our performance each quarter.

I'd love to talk more about this with anyone who can offer more insight from their perspective. I've been completely in my element for the Presentation Skills module, and offer whatever I can as a result. Be aware, on the other hand, that I will be the one needing much more explanation as we delve into the fat new binders on my bookshelf for Economics, Data Analysis, and Organisational Behavior. I leave you now with an entertaining moment from the whiteboard earlier, as we ponder the testicular breath mentioned in item 2 below:

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