In the practice of leadership, numerous theories have been developed over the past few decades, offering insights into effective leadership practices. For us, at the Blue Door Theatre, knowledge found within improvisational techniques can help us break out of the leadership-followership paradigm and recognize that leadership is a relational activity that we are calling LeaderProv. As a relational activity, LeaderProv is something done in collaboration with others rather than something (leading) being imposed on others (followers). In this article, we will explore how LeaderProv departs from traditional leadership theories and fosters a culture of originality. We will also explore how LeaderProv empowers people to break free from dichotomies, embrace novel thinking, and create thriving, collaborative communities.
We want to go beyond the limits of leadership theories and unlock a new approach to building relationships and collaborating with others. LeaderProv merges the art of leadership, followership, and improvisation to create something different, emphasizing being in authentic relationships with others and fostering a strong sense of community. These relationships and communities are fostered by being in the moment, inclusive, and collaborative. LeaderProv is unique in that it harnesses improvisational techniques, such as active listening, creativity, and spontaneity to enhance relationship and organizational effectiveness. This style of organizational engagement encourages mental flexibility, adaptability, and open-mindedness while inspiring and motivating teams.
What sets LeaderProv apart from traditional leadership theories is its departure from conventional step-by-step approaches to skill enhancements and its breaking free of dichotomies such as leader and follower. Rather than being a set of principles, it encompasses a way of perceiving and engaging with the world. At its core, LeaderProv encourages a transformative mindset, or way of being, that infuses every action with openness and receptivity. While LeaderProv has some key values to help guide individuals, there is no prescribed formula built into practicing it. Instead, it is about embracing a new perspective rooted in relationships, community, and innovation.
Another element of LeaderProv is that we attempt to avoid words like leader and follower or supervisor and employee. We believe everyone in the organization actively plays a role with organizational success. For this reason, we will refer to everyone as a player to avoid setting up a hierarchy of leadership and followers. At this point you might be asking yourself, “Why do they use the word leader if they want to transform the leader-follower relationship.” Great question! Simply put, we still believe in the strength of leadership, but we think it is not a personal quality but rather an action done in relationships that are built in the moment.
To get a deeper sense of the LeaderProv mindset, let’s explore its core values. These values are not arranged hierarchically or intended to be viewed as isolated concepts. Instead, they exhibit a fluid overlap and a lack of a linear structure. It is these characteristics that make me think of the values as a collage rather than existing as a typical developmental model. Like a collage, LeaderProv’s values form intricate interconnections, each influencing the others in a dynamic manner, rather than discrete entities to be individually mastered.
I use the collage image because it is a form of artistic expression in which diverse elements are juxtaposed in unexpected ways. These diverse elements are not placed within discrete boundaries; rather, they interact, layer upon layer, and create a novel meaning that transcends their original intent. LeaderProv also mirrors the disruptive nature of a collage, challenging our established perceptions and prompting us to reevaluate our knowledge, convictions, and actions. This analogy underscores how LeaderProv, like a collage, dismantles our preconceived notions, paving the way for embracing non-linear approaches to leadership and our perceptions of what is achievable. Now, let’s explore the 7 values.
LeaderProv emphasizes spontaneity and adaptability to expand our ability to think on our feet, adapt to dynamic situations, and be flexible. The world, businesses, people, and it seems everything, keeps changing. Nothing and no one are static. This constant sense of change can cause people to feel insecure or confused about the world or their place in it. Drawing from improv techniques, a LeaderProv approach teaches individuals to embrace uncertainty and live with ambiguity allowing for responding quickly and changing direction based shifting circumstances.
The value of active listening and collaboration focuses us on prioritizing listening to others to understand diverse perspectives and incorporating their ideas into solutions or new approaches of doing things. Participation is encouraged by everyone, and no one is seen as an island unto themselves. Through active listening, we create a space for real collaboration in which people working together is valued rather than expecting everyone to work within their own cubicles to develop great ideas. Great ideas happen in relationships with others. When people collaborate to co-create solutions, a sense of innovation, creativity, and empowerment is created.
By creating a culture of acceptance and inclusivity, players encourage their team members to take risks, voice their ideas without fear of criticism, and build upon each other’s contributions within a non-judgmental environment. By using the “Yes, and” principle of improv, players foster a creative and inclusive environment that encourages innovation and transformative thinking. Through this culture of acceptance and inclusivity, an environment that is welcoming and supportive of all team members, regardless of background or experience, is created along with a sense of belonging.
LeaderProv values emotional intelligence and empathy in organizations. Players employing these values actively cultivate understanding, connection, and trust among team members. They strive to create a psychologically safe space where individuals feel valued, supported, and encouraged to contribute their best.
At the heart of improvisation is creativity, and LeaderProv embraces this fundamental value. A LeaderProv approach nurtures and supports novel thinking, empowering players to produce original and innovative ideas that challenge the limits of conventional thought. By fostering a culture of originality, LeaderProv inspires creativity and encourages an environment where new perspectives flourish.
An additional value of LeaderProv is accountability. As players embrace this approach, they take ownership of their actions, decisions, and contributions. Accountability is seen as crucial to success, driving individuals to uphold their responsibilities and commitments to the team and organization. Players encourage one another to be accountable for their work and supporting each other’s growth while fostering a sense of reliability and trust.
Tools of LeaderProv
LeaderProv makes use of tools to implement the values listed above and to bring LeaderProv to life. Some of the tools include the following:
Engaging storytelling is a powerful tool in LeaderProv. Players use storytelling techniques to communicate their vision, connect with their team members on an emotional level, and inspire them to embrace change. By crafting compelling narratives, players can effectively convey the purpose and direction of the organization, creating a shared sense of purpose and motivation.
LeaderProv encourages players to embrace experimentation and view failures as learning opportunities. By promoting a safe environment for taking risks and exploring new approaches, players can inspire their teams to continuously adapt, grow, and improve.
Continuous learning and development are core tools of LeaderProv. Players are expected to create an environment that is conducive to the learning and growth of skills, knowledge, and abilities. It is expected that everyone has room for development and that development is actively encouraged and supported. Learning can happen through training or through individuals helping each other grow. Each player can be a teacher or a learner depending on what is happening in the moment. Players know that they may even switch from one or the other depending on what is happening in the moment.
LeaderProv emphasizes the importance of empowering players to take ownership of their work and to develop their skills and abilities. Players are expected to provide one another with the resources and support they need to succeed while also encouraging them to take risks and try new things. Empowering people is an essential tool for the LeaderProv practitioner.
Inspiration is a necessary tool in the LeaderProv toolbox. LeaderProv emphasizes the importance of inspiring and motivating team members. Players are expected to lead by example and to inspire their teams to achieve great things. Being inspirational is not confined to one person designated as “the leader.” It is a tool that all the players can use to keep the team moving forward and overcoming difficult challenges.
LeaderProv combines the ideas of improvisation with leadership and followership with a focus on creativity, transformation, and relationships. It offers a new mindset that celebrates community, inclusivity, and creativity. Through its values, LeaderProv shapes leaders, followers, employers, and employees into players who collaborate, innovate, and empower one another to achieve organizational success. It transcends hierarchies, rejects conventional leader-follower paradigms, and instead cultivates a sense of belonging and shared purpose within thriving communities.
By embracing the tools of engaging storytelling, experimentation, continuous learning, empowerment, and inspiration LeaderProv develops players who can navigate complexity, inspire others, and drive positive change. Its focus is not about leaders but everyone in an organization and creating a culture built around acceptance, innovation, creativity, and success. The key to LeaderProv is that it is not just for people in positions of power but for everyone in the organization. Anyone can implement LeaderProv and incorporate it into how they perceive and interact with the world.