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Do They Want to Follow You?

Leaders, Do They Want to Follow You?

Posted by on Jul 11, 2016 | 2 Comments

leader on stage

After spending a significant amount of time in both the theatre-world and the corporate-world, the thing that continues to strike me as odd is how much the two worlds are alike. Old Billy Shakespeare said a long time ago, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” He nailed it.

The problem is we don’t realize we’re on stage. We don’t realize that, (especially if we’re in a leadership position) we’re always being watched. That everything we do and everything we say communicates who we are and what we’re about. And while we may think that we’ve landed the role of “Leader” or “Executive” or “Manager” or “Director” or “Supervisor” or “VP” or “Consultant”, or whatever our title may be, the truth is, we’re always auditioning.

Auditioning stinks. It’s one of those necessary evils that actors know they must learn to embrace or they need to get out of the business. If you’re an actor and you want to participate in a production, you’re required to audition. Depending on the show, you and several-hundred-to-several-thousand-other-actors must take the stage for a whopping 2-3 minutes, and do everything you can to make a lasting impression on the director. Just in hopes to participate. In the theatre world, typically less than 5% of the actors who audition are cast. In the business world, the odds are only slightly better. But actors do have something going for them that leaders don’t. Actors know for certain when they’ve been cast. As Leaders we often think we’ve been cast.

I remember a boss early in my career….we’ll just call her “Boss-zilla”. She had a fancy title and lots of power. We all did what she told us to do (albeit with much grumbling behind the scenes). We had a team of very smart, talented, passionate, driven people (Boss-zilla knew how to hire). And every person on our team kept their ideas, passion, energy, and enthusiasm locked up tight in their own personal vault. Every person on our team had their resume in circulation and “exited stage right” as soon as they possibly could. While we reported to her, not one person on our team had cast Boss-zilla as their leader.  Ours was simply a paycheck-exchange.

Often as leaders we have the title. Often as leaders people do what we tell them to do. But in order to truly lead, we need people to want to follow. “To want” is a heart decision.  As leaders we have to be able to tap into the hearts as well as the minds of the people we lead to gain access to the stuff that can really make a difference in our businesses:  ideas, passion, energy, excitement, enthusiasm, caring, loyalty.

Today I challenge you to ask yourself the tough questions:

  • Have you been cast in the hearts and minds of the people you lead?
  • In the hearts and the minds of your colleagues?
  • In the hearts and the minds of your clients?
  • How do you know?

  • What do you DO to ensure that people want to follow you?

And what are you leaving on the table, if you’ve not really been cast where it counts?  Ideas. Passion. Energy. Excitement.  Enthusiasm. Caring. Loyalty.  Investments of the heart.  As Shakespeare penned, “…such stuff as dreams are made on”

The things that can make or break a company. Especially now.


©OnStage Leadership, 2016

Do you have someone on your team who has great potential but they suffer from low confidence, poor presentation skills, or lack of direction? Or maybe you have a rising star on your team you want to keep engaged and groom them for greater responsibility?  OnStage Leadership is coming to Dallas on October 20th (session is almost full),  and NYC on November 7th;  please notify us of your interest.  Sessions are filled on a first-come basis and limited to 12 participants.

KimberKimberly-Davis-Headshot-20142ly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop.  Click here to read what people are saying!  If you’re interested in more information, or in having Kimberly come speak to your group on topics around Authentic Leadership, Influence, Presence, Engagement, Purpose in the workplace, Presentation Skills, or being BRAVE at work, we’d love to hear from you!

If you haven’t had a chance, check out my recent Tedx talk  or my interview with Alise Cortez on Voice of America’s Working on Purpose Channel:  Bringing Our True and Best Selves to Work:  Cultivating Authentic Leadership with Kimberly Davis.


  1. Chuck Mencke
    July 11, 2016

    Wow, what a powerful message with lots of “food for thought” and points to ponder. Being in leadership I have learned that you’re always on the stage and you’re always being watched and judged, for good or bad. Everything you say and do is taken in. Thank you Kimberly for a great column today.


  2. Kimberly
    July 11, 2016

    Thank you, Chuck! I suspect you already to a pretty good job with this. But as you know it’s something we can ALL work on continually! So glad you’re doing so well!

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