In many ways, the fundamental values of improvisation echo management guru Peter Drucker’s approach to leadership. According to Drucker, great leadership comprises the practices of trusting the ensemble, working in synchronization, and taking the “I” out of team. Advocating for the replacement of corporate hierarchies with flatter structures, Drucker believed that successful organizations focused on knowledge workers. Similarly, The Second City believes that its greatest asset is its talent–not its management. Performers are given space and control over the creative process and their final product is directly linked to the consumer.
In order to create more fluid management structures that leverage the power of the ensemble, leaders must learn to let employees with the most knowledge of the issues at hand assume more direct control. This means creating environments where the roles of leaders and followers are always in flux. The improv exercise follow the follower can teach this skill. To implement, a group of people must sit in a circle facing one another. Next, everyone must begin making sounds and movements while simultaneously emulating the sounds and movements of everyone else. To do this exercise well, it is necessary to focus, listen, and remain in the moment. By the end, participants understand that effective leadership requires the ability to react to new information, change, and consider the perspectives of others–all in real time.
The idea that leadership is not just top-down, but sometimes sideways and even reverse, is integral to what can be considered Leadership 2.0. This new model of leadership, which enables innovation and creativity to thrive, requires leaders to know when to follow, when to lead, and when to get out of the way. When managers are monitoring their teams’ creative processes too heavily, the end results suffer. Instead, they must create environments where people can do their best work without constant interference. To this end, leaders must provide their teams with both resources and specific project parameters, like achievable timelines, and then leave them alone.
Additional qualities of modern leadership, which can all be strengthened through improvisation, include the ability to:
*Facilitate collaboration and teamwork.
*Inspire and motivate others.
*Communicate powerfully and prolifically.