On playing the King

By Martin Tothill

Martin lives to help and grow others to be the best leaders they can and in turn inspire a future generation of followers to do the very same.

Many Catseye conversations – especially when discussing matters of leadership – often turn to behaviour and how to be a leader.

People are very curious about how to play this role.

Instinctively, if you are ‘playing’ it, it’s not natural and that can be a difficult path to tread. But it does remind me of a story once shared by a professional actor on a Catseye workshop.

During rehearsals, our actor, who was playing a king, was interrupted by the director and challenged:

“You need be more of a King!” he bellowed.

Our actor thought for a moment – but with his years of acting experience chose to defer to the director’s knowledge instead.

“What do you suggest?” he asked.

“You’re trying too hard,” the director replied, who went on to explain the power and aura of the king comes from how the people around him behave.

They manner in which they worship and revere him on the stage shows the audience the true gravitas of the king.

Leaders should take comfort from this.

They should remind themselves that because of the small but carefully chosen actions and behaviours they display publicly, ‘following’ is returned.

These choices have often been referred to as ‘resonant leadership’ actions or qualities, from an emotional intelligence point of view.

Dissonant leadership, however, is never more obviously displayed than when someone’s trying too hard to play a role – clearly beyond their normal behavioural range. So don’t do it.

Many of the answers to the question of what makes a great leader come from the way leaders choose to manage themselves, as well as the relationships with those around them.

So here’s some Catseye wisdom:

  • Seek feedback and identify how your current approach is playing out with others
  • Freely experiment with your messages and style of delivery
  • Trust those around you – it often comes back
  • Don’t fight your instinct – much of what you’re doing is probably right – simply focus on a 10 per cent tweak

Our actor discovered the less he did on stage, the better he played the role: the nod of a head, a glance, a few well-chosen words delivered with a measured tone and pace, the power of listening and silences – all became his regal palette.

As an emerging leader, you may not always receive a standing ovation, but we encourage you to find your inner king – and let it reign.


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