Practice Assertive Leadership Through Improv

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High Performance Teams Drive Results Through Practicing Assertive Leadership

Today’s workplace requires us to be open, accepting, and encouraging of diverse voices.  The expectation of leaders is to take charge, drive change, and make an impact. Is it possible to do both at the same time?  It is not only possible, it is imperative. In order to make an impact, you must develop assertive leadership.

Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive.  Assertiveness is a key competency on the EQi 2.0 (emotional intelligence) scale.  Effective leaders recognize that assertive leadership is the balancing act of gaining respect and authority without alienating team members or other stakeholders.  Lorew assertiveness allows people walk to all over you. High and unhealthy assertiveness is ineffective and seen as being in it only for yourself.

If assertiveness has received a bad reputation lately, perhaps it is because the old style of leadership as about one “assertive” leader, while followers remain passive.  To create transformational impact in your company, not only do you need assertive leaders, but you must develop assertive team members as well. Developing assertive team members gives your employees the confidence and skills to stand their ground, share openly, acknowledge intensely, and face conflict with poise. The place where assertiveness is honed is through improv.

The old style of leadership had a powerful leader at the front making decisions with followers answering to the leader’s orders, commands, and ideas.  In today’s virulently competitive climate and constant change, and with leader’s schedules fully booked, we need more than assertive leaders, we need to develop assertive team members as well.

We need team members to be assertive with the confidence and skills to share openly, make decisions, stand their ground, and face change and conflict with poise.  And, we need them assertive now!

We can’t teach assertiveness.  It is impossible to read what assertiveness is and then display it immediately on demand.  So, where can team members practice leadership in an environment of rapid change, and build assertiveness now?  

The place where assertiveness is honed is on the improv stage.

What Do Leaders and Improv Comedians Have in Common?

what leaders and improv comedians have in common

Leaders and improv comedians:

  • Have no idea what’s going to happen in the future, but are expected to create it.
  • Use verbal and non-verbal language to send messages that creates relationships.
  • Be convincing, articulate, confident, and influential in the face of rapid change.
  • Create cultures that use emotions to connect with their audience.
  • Work in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environments.

Improv teaches leaders and teams crucial leadership skills in a safe environment. Improv introduces New leaders to situation after situation, which requires that they navigate uncertainty with poise and conviction.  Improv in the practice of creating an intention, and environment, and a relationship on the spot. When leaders practice improv, they develop the habits to be steadfast, alert, and confident under pressure. Courses that on knowledge create individuals who “know” what to do, but don’t do it.  Practicing improv in leadership is the missing piece from chaos to conviction.

[bctt tweet=”“In my academic research, I’ve looked at many different types of teams, at a wide variety of organizations all over the world. The group that communicated best, with everyone contributing and learning, wasn’t in a corporate office park; it was in an improv comedy class.” – Francesca Gino Harvard Business Review]

How Improv Teaches Assertive Leadership

On the improv stage, the past and present is never assumed, and always created. Through improv, your team learns how to express emotions in the workplace in a healthy way. Everyone is equally competent in developing the future.  The key to great improvisation is that all players are assertive in stepping into the unknown and commit to where the scene and the future is going.

Improv scenes demand assertiveness.  Scenes die when one player defines where the scene is going without listening to the other players on stage.    Aggression is when one player defines the future without listening to the others on stage. With aggression, there is no followership.  

Scenes die when one player listens to the other player, follows him or her, but then doesn’t add to the scene.  Passivity is when one player lets the other players define the future and do not add or contribute their point of view.  When one player gives up the future (passivity) there is no dynamism to the scene. Assertiveness requires finding a balance between standing one’s ground and listening to another’s perspective.

To achieve this balance takes practice.

In order to be an effective and assertive leader one needs to enter the leadership stage everyday, ready and committed to make an impact AND ready and committed to acknowledge everything that is going on with the rest of the Team.

In our ASSERTIVENESS workshop, we focus on helping team members become more assertive leaders. As a leadership coach, I can tell you what it means to be assertive and you can tell me what you understand to be assertive.  You can read books on how to be assertive and you can listen to podcasts on being assertive. As a result you may become the most knowledgeable person out there to teach us what assertiveness means. In business, they don’t pay you to define assertiveness.  They pay you, promote you, and give you “cool” titles when you display Assertiveness.

To get there, one way is to find the opportunities at work to practice assertiveness.  They may be far and few between. When you practice being assertive with your team through improv, you increase the memory muscle, the emotions, the feelings, and the confidence of being an assertive leader.  

Time to practice assertive leadership?  Yes. Let’s see how assertive you are to get up on the Leadership improv stage.


Team Assertiveness Workshop | Leadership Workshops | Experiential Learning | Improv Comedy | Practicing Leadership | Practicing Conversations | Self-awareness | Assertive Leadership | Leadership Retreats | Assertive Leadership | Management Consulting

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