Dramatically improving leadership performance in business
the commercial arm of world-renowned drama school RADA, is helping leaders in
business to become confident and influential in the
Claire Dale, tutor at RADA Business, provides insight into how professionals can develop their leadership performance in business:
If the workplace is a stage, then it is leaders who most often find themselves under the spotlight, expected to deliver their best performance in any scenario.
Such expectations – for example, to always communicate with the right tone, appropriate to the situation, and to withstand the increasing pace of change in modern businesses – can significantly turn up the pressure on those in senior positions.
With this pressure comes increased stress, which can be detrimental to the mental, emotional and physical performance of even the most experienced leaders.
This is why it is important for businesses to support their leaders’ development, creating an environment of trust and openness so that those in senior positions can have the freedom and confidence to ask for support when they need it.
By applying some of the elements RADA uses to train its actors, professionals can improve their leadership performance in business by understanding the core components that contribute to such a performance, and rehearsing techniques to maximise their effectiveness.
But what are these techniques, and how can we apply them in a business environment?
Flexing your leadership style is key. It allows you to use all parts of yourself (both the emotional and rational) to approach any scenario in an appropriate way. Different situations might require authority, creativity, empathy or clarity. The most successful leaders can strike a balance between these modes to adapt their skill set for any given situation whilst being completely authentic.
In order to flex effectively, it is helpful to link your mode of communication to four different body areas: feet, gut, heart and head. The feet represent standing your ground and driving forward, the gut is where we feel excitement and fear, the heart is central to building real trust, and a clear head under pressure is vital for good judgment. Each body area has a dynamic associated with it and has a part to play in developing your leadership style. Understanding which areas need focus is key to becoming a successful and a fully-rounded leader.
A starting point of RADA Business training is often grounding. Try placing your feet firmly on the floor, whether sitting or standing, aligning your body and muscles and lengthening your spine to create a solid base. A strong base not only offers greater stability, but also conveys confidence in yourself and your ability, allowing you to deliver your message with authority as you hold the space.
Make sure you do not physically contract or ‘shrink’ (by unconsciously slouching or lowering yourself in your seat) if you feel under pressure, as this can portray lower status. Take up space and open up your stance, removing any physical tension from your shoulders, spine, neck and throat, as this can limit the ability to convey a message to your audience with emotion and power.
Once you have a strong posture and are holding your space, the next fundamental step is to connect with your breath and remove any tense energy which can affect vocal resonance. Take a moment to think about your breath, breathing out and in, slowly and deeply, before you speak – so you are ready to take a full breath to help give strength to your voice when you speak. Carefully monitoring the speed at which you’re speaking will also allow you to deliver your message with confidence and convey authority; it helps to avoid rushing or getting breathless.
Although it’s important to understand how to speak well, leaders also need to develop strong listening skills, which are integral to achieving leadership presence in the workplace. Be aware of how you’re using all your senses, especially sight and hearing, to connect with the world around you and be fully present in how you interpret and intuit what’s happening in the moment. This will help you to engage with your surroundings and people, to build trust and rapport with colleagues, understand a wider perspective and make considered decisions.
Making small physical changes in the way you speak can significantly impact your leadership performance. RADA Business teaches clients vocal drills that shape the tongue and lips for more precise articulation, so the voice resonates, the words travel more effectively and those listening receive a clear message. Leaders who communicate with clarity will be able to make a better connection with their audience.
Equipping yourself with the right skills to make small but powerful shifts is beneficial for leaders at all stages of their career. Practising and mastering these techniques can help shape how you are seen by those around you and ultimately shape the future of your business.
To learn more about RADA Business, including courses, coaching and consultancy for leaders at different stages of their career, please visit radabusiness.com.