A leadership mindset hack from the world of improvisational comedy

Lisa Gill
2 min readMar 25, 2022

For the last century or so, we have been taught to think that a good leader is the smartest, most charismatic person in the room.

We read about it in the media, we see it in movies, we study these leaders in school.

The problem is, this belief kills off the leadership in others.

A famous MIT study on collective intelligence found that high IQ had little to do with groups’ success. Two of the main things that did distinguish the highest performing teams in terms of creative problem solving were:

  • Roughly equal talking time for each member
  • Social sensitivity or empathy

So how can we cultivate these qualities?

Here’s some wisdom from a man considered to be one of the biggest shapers of the improvisational comedy scene, Del Close:

Treat others as if they are poets, geniuses and artists, and they will be.”

When we adopt this mindset, we become curious. Everything someone says is an offer to explore.

It opens us up to new perspectives, new ideas, new levels of trust.

Leadership is shifting from a designation to a quality that anyone can offer.

To solve big problems we need all kinds of minds. And hearts. And bodies. Del Close’s quote may have been about improv and how to be a good scene partner, but it’s just as relevant for how to be a good leader or colleague.

It doesn’t mean we all have to agree, or that we can never give each other feedback. But it means we stay curious a little longer, and discover something new.

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Lisa Gill

Founder of Reimaginaire, trainer and coach with Tuff Leadership Training, host of Leadermorphosis podcast.