Week Eight: ‘Improv Leadership’ by Andrew Bright

This is week eight of the #CEOChallenge – to read 52 books in a year. Follow along for weekly insights from some of the worlds most influential books.

“What determines whether you lead or follow is not your role in the company or your level of experience… [it is] what’s needed to move forward in that moment” – Andrew Bright, 13

Andrew Bright is both an improv comedian in the group Panic Squad and a Leadership author. In his book, “Improv Leadership“, he beautifully blends these two categories into a seamless action plan for leaders and followers to glean from. Here are three simple takeaways to mull over this week:

Stoplight, and Roundabout Leadership:

There are two types of leaders according to Bright, Stoplight leaders and Roundabout leaders and they both stem from relatable traffic analogies:

  1. Stoplight Leaders: “Your experience and direction keep things running smoothly. The thing is, stoplight leaders can create a lot of frustration for their team. Having to wait for a green light on every little decision can feel suffocating.” (17)
  2. Roundabout Leaders: “A roundabout leader isn’t concerned with directing traffic. Your goal is to make sure that everyone is going the same direction around a central idea or purpose.” (19)

Understand, Stoplight leaders are not evil, but rather lacking in the trust department. They pride rules to protect themselves and to ensure that the leader remains in charge.

Whereas, Roundabout leaders are all about choosing when to lead and when to follow based on a set purpose everyone clearly can identify.

Make clear your teams purpose, mission and vision then you will find the flow of a roundabout in your organization.

What kind of leader are you? 

Clarity of Mission and Vision:

There is a lot of talk in the world about mission and vision, but what do these things really mean? Why are they important?

These things are the heartbeat of your organization and they are what drives your passion to create, serve, and exist. Mission and vision transcend the product you create and they are why you chose to create it – not everybody knows why they do what they do. Here are three key points Bright identifies as important for mission and vision:

  1. “You don’t have the right to be upset at your team for going off course if you haven’t told them what it means to win and how to get there” (53)
  2. When your team members have a solid grasp of your history, mission and vision, it’s easier to get everyone going in the same direction” (63)
  3. “In communicating your missions and vision to your team, be real. Be unique. Be you.” (66)

Roundabout leadership is reliant on identifying a clear purpose, and if you have more than one ‘purpose’ people start crashing – it’s not good!

Do you have a clear mission and vision?

The Imitation Effect:

The most successful improv acts are reliant on the ability to create something new – after all that is a major component of improv (you make it up as you go). Often teams and leaders try to replicate or imitate previous successes or other people’s successes, this generally leads to failure.

I can recall a time where I spoke at camps and gave the same talk at two camps, the first was amazing while the second flopped! Why? Because I was trying to live in my memories; I was not thinking about ‘creating’ for a new audience.

Hear this:

“When you are being creative with a trusted team wonderful things can happen. When you are trying to reproduce something that was awesome before or was awesome for someone else, you’re not creating anymore. You’re imitating. Imitating excellence can be more difficult for your team than creating excellence with your team” (65).

Choose to learn from the past, but do not attempt to live in it – replication is the anthesis to innovation.

Are there times where you have experienced the imitation effect?

Andrew Bright is a brilliant comedian, author, and team player, I highly recommend looking into his improv group Panic Squad AND reading this book. Check out his Website and follow him on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for plenty of good laughs and inspiring insights!



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