7 Reasons Why Theatre Improv Teaches Leadership Skills
1. THINKING ON YOUR FEET
Whether you are the C.E.O. of a company or you are working your first retail job, knowing how to think on your feet and tackle unforeseen circumstances is an important skill for any leader. As an adult, we have all been in situations where we have had to come up with an idea on the spot, offer up a quick solution to a problem or change the entire workday plan because of unforeseen circumstances.
For some people, thinking on their feet comes naturally, but for the majority of us, it is a skill that has to be developed. Fortunately, it can be developed at a very young age. Improvisation is about creating spontaneously without preparation. The ability to think on one’s feet is a basic skill needed for all improvisation. While participating in theatre improvisation exercises, children continually have to come up with new ideas on the spot and offer them to their scene partner(s). This provides practice thinking on one’s feet in a fun safe environment.
2. BEING FEARLESS
The mark of a true leader is one who is fearless. A leader is one who has the ability to try new things, take on new challenges, lead a group in a new direction and resolve conflicts. The minute our leader falters or shows his or her fear, we automatically start to lose our faith and confidence in that person. Some people are born fearless, but others need to work at it.
For many people, stage fright is one of their greatest fears. People get physically ill at the thought of speaking in front of their colleagues or making a presentation to clients. Participation in improv training provides just the right kind of fear-defying practice.
Improvisation provides children a safe atmosphere to learn how to take positive risks without being overcome by fear. By incorporating improv into school curriculum or theatre lessons, you are giving children the necessary platform to learn this skill.
3 WHEN TO STEP UP & WHEN TO LISTEN
True leaders know when to step up in their leadership role and when to take a step back. Leadership is not all about taking control the entire time, it’s about knowing when to let your team sort it out and when to step in and give guidance. This is exactly what children can learn through improvisation exercises.
Through trial and error and debrief, they learn when they need to step up and take charge in a scene. For example, they practice offering suggestions when their scene partner might be struggling or, the scene is not going well. Through observation and practice, they will also come to realize that, if the scene is going extremely well, and their fellow actor is on a role, it is in the best interest of the scene for them to step back and listen to their fellow actor. Improv helps develop the essential leadership skill of knowing when to listen and when to take charge.
Being an effective leader takes someone who is committed to and focused on the task at hand. In this technological age, it can be very difficult for children to find the focus they need to achieve success. There are so many distractions such as television, video games and the Internet.
The ability to focus is an essential skill that needs to be developed from a very young age. Working together with a scene partner or multiple scene partners to create an improvised scene takes incredible focus. For example, the audience will not be able to follow a scene if there is more than one person talking at once. Because there are no scripts or cues in improv, actors must listen carefully to be able to judge when there is an opening for them to speak. It takes incredible concentration to listen to your fellow actors, as well as think of what you will do next to contribute to the scene. Even for the most focused child, improv contributes to enhancing and developing this invaluable skill.
5. REACTING & ADAPTING
How a person reacts and adapts to a situation defines their character as a leader. Adaptability is a skill that we all use constantly. Whether you are a full time parent who has to change your plans for your kids because it’s pouring rain outside, or you are the manager of a large company that has to hold an emergency meeting to deal with an unforeseen issue, reacting and adapting to a situation in a productive way is something you need to do everyday.
Improvisation gives children tools and strategies they can use to adapt. When children are doing improv exercises, they constantly have to adapt to new things being thrown at them. For example, their scene partner might throw a curve ball in a scene that they were not expecting and it is their job to react and adapt in a way that moves the scene forward. If they give up or say “no”, the scene is over. Practicing how to react in a scene and how to adapt to a changing story will equip children to react calmly and appropriately to a change in their life.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a world that is constantly changing. Whether you work for a corporation or are a professional clown, creativity is a an asset in any work environment. Creativity allows you to be innovative, spontaneous, imaginative, original and inventive. Yes, some people are born with creativity oozing out of them, but creativity is a skill that can be developed.
Improv allows children (and adults) to play, to let loose and tap into their creative side. Playing, for most children, comes naturally, but after a certain age we lose our ability to play. Improvisation allows us to discover or rediscover our creative side, encouraging us to create characters and scenarios that come from our imagination.
The corporate world has realized the huge benefit and skill building potential of improvising. In order to increase employee creativity, a growing trend in the business world is hiring professional actors to run improvisation workshops with employees. If our children are well-versed in the ways of improv they will be ahead of their peers and thrive in any career they choose.
Confidence is a big issue for many people and they suffer in their personal and professional lives because of it. People excel in the work world not only because of their intelligence or creativity, but because an employer sees confidence within them.
Confidence comes with competence. Once children feel competent in their own abilities, confidence will come naturally. If we help children build leadership skills, confidence will follow. Theatre improvisation exercises are a great way to build a child’s confidence by building the other 6 skills I have outlined above.
Giving kids experiences in theatre is preparing them for life and the working world in so many ways. The next time you are looking for an extra curricular activity for your child consider theatre. The benefits go well behind the fun they will have in the program!
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