Stage Presence for Future Leaders

There’s a column in the latest New Yorker about leadership development and the arts.  The story is about future leaders (“Fellows”) in the World Economic Forum who are spending a week studying “stage presence.”  These leaders-in-training, ranging in age from 26 to 36, spend five weeks a year “training” to be world leaders—or so it says—at places like the World Bank, the Open Society Institute, and now the Columbia Miller Theatre, where they’re working to develop their stage presence.

The seminars are produced by Gilbert Probst, the managing director and dean of academic affairs at the World Economic Forum.  The writer of the New Yorker piece, Ben McGrath, observed these young leadership Fellows trying to impersonate their diaphragms, breathing deeply.  I’m sure it was a stretch for the average business-focused professional to shift into diaphragm-impersonating mode, but apparently they were giving it their all.

A professional voice coach was there to assist, and she observed that most of these leaders-in-training were especially proficient at “mumbling and swallowing words,” neither of which is likely to come in handy in the leadership biz.  Part of developing stage presence, of course, is overcoming such limitations, and there’s no better place to learn how to enunciate, command a stage, and make a proclamation that commands attention than from a professional in the theatre.

These are world leaders of the future discovering the arts.  Too bad they missed it when they were in school, where they’d have had time to really develop these important abilities.  I’m not convinced they’ll master it in a week-long crash course, no matter how renown the faculty nor how conducive the venue.

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