Be A Leader That Inspires Great Performances


What if you were a leader that was able to draw potential out of your people that they weren’t even aware that they had? Then you would be a leader that inspires great performances that naturally enhances your bottom line!

Directing Greatness

Being a wildly successful actress is something I’ve never aspired to. A drama queen I am not! Maybe if I’d been able to watch more than an hour of TV per week or permitted to go to a movie theater growing up, such a passion might have been stirred in me. It’s all good – I adore the work I get to do as a coach!

A few years back, Katie Holmes was plugging her film, Logan Lucky, on the Today Show. In that conversation, she stated that her performance was either hindered or helped depending on the skill of the director. Being the curious creature that I am, I decided to explore what other actors wanted in a director. Here are the high points of what others had to say…

  • Fun, honest, and someone who trusts you. – Paul Giamatti
  • Clarity, certainty, and the willingness to honest when you are uncertain. – Meerle Streep
  • Emotional participation. – Natalie Portman
  • – Elena Anaya
  • A grasp on the story. Flexibility. Parameters – not micromanaged. – Jeremy Renner
  • Vision. Freedom. Not prescriptive, but descriptive about what’s needed. Clear… producing a creative response. – Rebecca Hall
  • Feedback. Input. – Bruce Greenwod
  • Vision. – Djimon Hounson
  • – Abbie Cornish
  • Creativity, task, and boldness. – Oliver Isaac
  • Passionate. Strong Vision. -James D’Arcy
  • Trust, communicates clearly, great atmosphere, and cultivates a relaxed feeling. – Viggo Mortensen
  • Know what they want! – Jennifer Ehle
  • Communicate what they want. Open to creativity and collaboration. – Laurence Fishburne
  • Explore. Collaboration. Trust. – Naomi Rapace
  • Trust, direction, guidance with very clear ideas, and freedom. – Toni Serrillo
  • I absolutely love working with Mel (Gibson) because he is so passionate & such a caring parent on set. So confident in his ability to tell a story it makes you confident in him. –Andrew Garfield

Ten Characteristics

As I was reflecting on the comments of the various actors, it was abundantly clear to me that what actors want from a movie director are the very same traits that people want from a leader. In fact, I would boil down to these ten characteristics:

  • Trustworthy
  • Visionary
  • Clear communicator
  • Passionate
  • Confident
  • Honest
  • Creative
  • Collaborative
  • Flexible
  • Emotionally engaged

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list – I’m sure there are additional qualities that could be added, but it’s a great place to start! Possessing these ten qualities goes a long way towards helping a director coax the best out of the actors and actresses under their direction enabling them to give winning performances.

Inspiring Great Performances

As leaders, you too desire your people to perform at their best, yet too often, leaders hinder the performance of their people because they lack some of the above characteristics.

Even though these traits are not new or earth-shattering, successfully walking out these traits day to day is not easy. However, viewing your role as a leader through the lens of a film director just might shift how you see your job and inspire you to approach leading in a fresh way.

Eager to become a more inspiring leader? Consider taking the following steps:

1. Carve Out Time To Reflect

Leading is a significant responsibility and taking time to reflect might seem like a luxury or even impossible with so much is vying for your attention. Remember, It is your ability to think and strategize that enables you to lead successfully and ultimately saves you time! In fact, reflecting is powerful and worth making a habit.

I encourage you to take a minute to reflect on the ten traits above. On a scale of 1-10, with one being “needs significant work” and 10 being “excels in this area,” where would you rate yourself?

And just as important…How would your people rate you? Are you brave enough to receive their feedback?

Don’t be overwhelmed if you score yourself lower than you’d like in any, or many, of these areas. Awareness is the first step.

2. Narrow Your Focus!

Next, pick one area – just one, to focus on for the next 30 days. You want the most bang for your buck, so, pick an area that will have greatest impact.

Not sure which area that would be? Just pick one, any one!

Remember, growing and making changes is hard. Trying to make too many changes at once is even harder, if not impossible, because you dramatically dilute your focus.

3. Determine Your Action Steps

Once you know your focus, it’s time to create a strategy and determine the action steps you will take to grow in the area that you landed on. For example, if you happen to struggle with being collaborative, you might consider…

      • Inviting ideas and input from others before making decisions
      • Asking more open-ended questions
      • Changing up your meetings to include brainstorming
      • Inviting others to give you feedback

If you aren’t sure how to grow in a specific area, I encourage you to find a mentor, take a course, or work with a coach. A coach is able to help you get from where you are to where you want to be. They see your blind spots and the funky mindsets that might be preventing you from growing and succeeding in a particular area. And because the drift back to your old ways is incredibly strong, it’s helpful to have someone to keep urging you forward.

Another advantage to seeking out help is that they may be aware of resources that would help to speed up the process and/or do it more effectively!

4. Keep Growing!

While new habits are often uncomfortable at first, don’t let that keep you from noticing the benefits of your new behaviors! Then don’t stop there. After devoting 30 days to one trait, pick another trait to focus on. You might work on pumping up your passion by…

      • Reconnecting with your why
      • Participating in activities you LOVE!
      • Eliminating tasks or responsibilities that detract from your passion
      • Journaling
      • Reducing your stress
      • Practicing self-care – it’s hard to be passionate when you are running on empty!

Another Good Reason!

People leave organizations because of poor leadership, so investing the time, money and energy into growing as a leader is key. The truth is, you are worth investing in!

Don’t be fooled – replacing or re-training people isn’t cheap! Depending on the job and the industry, according to toggl, the average cost of hiring someone is $4,700 and if that someone is an executive the average cost is $28,329. That doesn’t account for the time invested in bringing that new person up to speed or include any of the other costs associated with a new hire.

If you lead in an organization that relies on volunteers, you know how tough it is to find people to begin with! It’s far more productive to develop yourself as a leader and to create a culture that people want to work in than it is to waste time perpetually replacing people!

What if you were to develop your leadership skills as if you were aiming for an Academy Award or an Oscar for Best Director…or Leader of the Year, if you will! If that was your goal, what would you need to change to inspire great performances from your people? 

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.

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