There is a chair on the stage. Two competitors circle it. When the music stops, only one of them sits. That person gets to be Major — the power, the leader, the force. The loser becomes Minor and slinks away. It’s a child’s game — musical chairs — but this time, it’s teaching a lesson in leadership.
In this game, when the music stops, the person who grabs the chair doesn’t just sit in it — he possesses it. Major swells to fill the chair. He revels in his new seat, declaring himself born to that perch, destined for that role. He is not gracious, not for a moment. He is loving every minute of sitting in that chair. And watching him, so are we. There’s something so right about his sitting there. It’s perfect! We enjoy seeing him in that chair even more than we would enjoy sitting our own precious ass down in that winning seat. And Minor? What of Minor? Minor is off to the side — and cleverly drawing us to him. He’s full of entrancing second-banana movements, from that droopy grin that he wears on his face like a wilting flower in his lapel to the abject crawling that has become his new way of getting around. His version of losing is actually quite winning: It’s touching, charming — and just as perfect as Major’s boastfulness. Minor, too, has touched us. He, too, could convince us of anything — even that crawling around on a dusty floor is fun. So completely have Major and Minor connected with an inner chord of emotion and energy that we would follow either of them.
Major and Minor are, in fact, learning to be leaders. But they’re studying a type of leadership that goes beyond the traditional requirements of being clear, motivational, and inspirational: The leadership that they’re learning teaches people to go for the jugular. Major and Minor are among the 26 students in this class who are learning to tap into the very core of leadership by drilling past their rational minds into the depths of their emotional responses. It’s at this core level that people commit their deepest loyalties to strangers. Think of the way that music takes possession of you: truly, madly, and deeply. Now imagine leadership that touches you as powerfully, as primitively, and as completely. That is the essence of leadership.
The class is taught at L’école Philippe Gaulier — a nontraditional school in North London that rearranges everything that we thought we knew about the art of leadership. It is a school for leaders, though it is not a leadership school. The principal — the master — is a clown. Philippe Gaulier, 57, makes sure that his school focuses on one essential objective: how not to be boring. Without knowing it, most of us are deeply boring. Deeply. And leaders are the most boring of all. What they don’t understand is that being boring limits their power and undermines their effectiveness. Whenever Gaulier catches even a hint of ” boring” in his class, he looks the offender in the eye and growls, ” You are boooorrriinng! Adios immediately!” Whether you are onstage in a theatrical production or onstage in the real world — the ” theater with consequences” — when the spotlight shines on you, you must become larger than life.
Gaulier is pleased with the most recent Major and Minor, as they were anything but boring. They performed as leaders — an art learned best in reverse: First you master the performance; then you become a leader. Two other students begin a new game. When the music stops, a woman plops herself down in the chair as if her body were a bag of groceries and becomes Major. Her eyes fix on Minor as she engages the loser in the kind of dull conversation that strangers take part in: ” Where do you come from?” she asks. ” I come from New York,” Minor answers. ” And you?” This isn’t leadership — it’s chitchat. No one is listening; no one cares. Major may hold the seat of power — the office of leader — but she has zero command of us, her followers, her audience.
Gaulier withstands only a minute of this misery. He then abruptly turns on the music — boooorrriinng! — and banishes this Major and Minor. Adios immediately.
” People are ready for Gaulier when they sense that there is more inside them than what they have allowed themselves to express,” says Isabelle Anderson, 49, a former student of Gaulier’s who uses some of his dramatic techniques to coach CEOs, authors, and business leaders in communications, public-speaking, and presentation skills. ” They may feel that they’ve done pretty well, but significant power has eluded them.”
When a promotion, a sense of ambition, or a need to perform forces people out of their safety zone, says Anderson, those people ” step out of themselves and into a larger identity. That’s when they start to feel that they are not good enough to shift to the next gear.”
Ronald Reagan understood this — as an actor playing a leader playing a leader-playing-an-actor. There is an art to understanding posture, voice, and the dramatic moment. Great leaders instinctively know it; others learn it. Gaulier tells his students that they don’t need to play a role — they need to play themselves comfortably. He teaches theater techniques that help people embrace their humanity.
A Too-Nice Woman
Once upon a time, there was a woman who was much too nice. Just how nice was this too-nice woman? This woman was so incredibly nice — that nobody liked her.
The too-nice woman runs around the room, per Gaulier’s instructions. When you’re running, he says, your body reveals the role that’s captured you, the role that limits you: stiff and subdued, light and childish, aggressive and energized. When you’re moving, you can’t hide. Generals know that — and so does Gaulier. This woman’s step is light; she positively prances. There is an angelic smile on her face.
” You are too nice,” Gaulier says. The woman even enjoys the reproach. For her, ” too nice” is just right. But then Gaulier lets the air out of her tires: ” You are so nice that you are not convincing. You are boooorrriinng!” It’s true. She is so nice, she is not even very convincing at being nice.
Gaulier quickly performs surgery on her soul. He makes her aware of how trapped she is in the role of helper. Indeed, he makes her aware of how everything that she does — the way that she walks, breathes, talks, glances at another person — limits her effectiveness. Leadership is communicated through more than just ideas, vision, or values. Gestures can also communicate leadership — swiftly and surely. The too-nice woman doesn’t have what it takes to command attention. And Gaulier won’t let her off the hook until she does.
Boooorrriinng? Gaulier is eminently qualified to make this judgment: He is a Zen master in Dilbert suspenders. Everything about him contradicts everything else about him. Since he’s French, you expect a high degree of formality. You expect to be reprimanded for anything less than perfection. But Gaulier loves risk and foolishness. He wears the beard and the patches of Jean-Paul Sartre and the round glasses of the Nutty Professor. You expect him to expound on theory. Instead, you get demonstrations on how to love what you do — how to love it so much that pleasure becomes the center of your power and authority. Take total pleasure in everything you do, insists Gaulier, even the lonely job of leadership.
But our young Mother Teresa can’t break out of her too-nice shell. Having been told that she is boring, she becomes even duller. Gaulier asks her to act like any animal she wants. She opts for a swan — not an inspired choice! In fact, it is an insipid choice: She is already a lot like a swan, so in mimicking a swan’s behavior, she is still stuck in her old routine.
” Choose your punishment,” Gaulier demands. ” A kiss or a whack.” Since this woman is boring, Gaulier makes her choose between two punishments that afford her no safety: She must either convince another student to kiss her — not an easy thing to do in a room full of strangers — or accept a whack.
Our Sister of the Loving Heart again plays it safe: She decides to take the whack. Gaulier bends her at the waist, her arms pinioned behind her, and karate-chops her back. His whacks are no more uncomfortable than a typical Swedish massage. Still, you feel them. Your butt in the air and your head down at your ankles, you feel broken in two. Afterward, you sit with the others who have been condemned for being boring. And then later, you get up and try the exercise again.
The Sin of Being Boooorrriinng!
One thing that Gaulier insists on is that his students become bigger human beings. ” People make themselves smaller in every encounter,” he says. ” If you’re in the light, either onstage or in someone’s attention, you can’t afford to be small. You’re not just the space around your shoes. If you don’t take pleasure in even the smallest things that you do, then you don’t have an aura.
” You have to be so charming,” Gaulier tells his students, ” that people think, ‘If my daughter marries this man, or if my son marries this woman, I will be fucking happy.’ If you don’t exude pleasure, then you can’t be an actor — or a leader. With 2,000 spotlights shining on you, you have to emit a beautiful freedom. You have to pretend that you’re not scared.”
Leadership can be stressful. And during moments of pressure, people tend to close up. That’s true for an actor onstage, as well as for a leader on whom all eyes rest. When we occupy a position that requires more of us than usual — making a toast at a wedding, presenting to a committee of VCs, rousing a team or a board of directors — we contract. Courage leaves us, and we deflate. The result is that we don’t convey our ideas with conviction.
Leadership means selling yourself along with a promise — of ideas, products, or missions. But all too often, when we have an idea or a product to sell, instead of rising to the challenge — Major swelling to fill that chair! — we shrink from it. ” If your presentation becomes diminished, it is because of the contraction that goes on in your confidence level,” explains Isabelle Anderson. ” To put color around it, to make it bold, would go against the grain of your normal life.”
So how do you act with the kind of absolute conviction that makes others follow you? Think of making a toast at a friend’s wedding. All eyes are on you. And all of those stares, all of that attention, all of that expectation makes you feel diminished. You say all the right things, but your voice still sounds fake, small, and tinny — like that of a B-movie actor. You have big words and big feelings to convey, but you are not their equal. Your words lack the right combination of comfort and conviction. How to change that?
” Expressing your conviction and position by just being you, by being natural, is great,” says Anderson. ” But if you’re so natural that you’re not in a heightened energy state, then you may as well be boarding people on a bus. Gaulier’s work is about being bigger than your image of yourself, not just different from it.”
Reaching a ” heightened energy state” is what Gaulier teaches. In order to lead, you have to command people’s attention — and steal their hearts. Simply setting out to be more interesting won’t fix the problem. Racking up real-life experiences or winning awards to put on your résumé may give you more to talk about, but neither of those things will lessen your chances of being boring. The reason that people are boring is because they follow a bad script.
” People begin a conversation with an aggressive tone,” says Anderson. ” The first instinct in communication is ‘I’ll show you!’ The hidden script that most people bring to every contact is a confrontational one — a tacit ‘prove it-prove yourself’ attitude. We do this instinctively; we’re not even aware of it. Because we are self-conscious, we enter a conversation anticipating rejection, conflict, or a need to protect ourselves. Those emotions constrict us. Self-consciousness creates a barrier between people.”
Moreover, self-consciousness stops all action. It isolates people, and, worst of all, it is boring. Bore people, and you lose their attention — and permission to lead them. Gaulier tries to draw what’s not boring out of a person. ” It’s a shame that we walk around being so boring,” laughs Anderson, ” when we have the potential not to.”
A boring leader is never more than a manager. A boring Nelson Mandela could not have freed South Africa from apartheid. A boring Jack Welch could not have inspired General Electric’s businesses to assume first or second stature in their industries. A boring Steve Jobs would have meant the death of Apple Computer long ago, rather than its birth or rebirth.
Says Gaulier: ” Theater is the extension of life. The same laws govern one and the other.”
Open-Heart Surgery of the Soul
To train athletes, you make them run. To train leaders, you do — what exactly? Teach them management? Teach them the numbers? Teach them confidence? Or perhaps you teach them how humanity really works: how to tap into what goes on beneath sophisticated human surfaces; how to find the connection that makes perfect strangers identify with an idea, a project, a vision, even the unknown. Isn’t leadership, after all, a higher form of selling, where what you’re selling is the future? If you want to sell shares of the future, you need more than off-the-shelf business skills.
What triggers that connection, what overrides anyone’s tendency to be boring, is the language of complicity. It is the language of agreement, cooperation, and communication that connects leaders to their constituency of listeners, followers, and customers — striking deeply and directly at their emotional core.
Pleasure is the great glue stick. When performers are having a great time — when they’re in control of their own power, and they have access to the power of others — everyone knows it. If a performer is struggling or distracted or unhappy, you sense it instantly. You distance yourself from everything that performer says. There is complicity between leaders and their followers, the same complicity that exists between actors and their audience. ” In a great performance, no one is outside the experience,” says Gaulier. ” Everyone shares in it. It’s intimate and joyful.” A great performance is sharing a secret, a wink, or a joke with the audience. It’s the moment when you connect with your followers. Once that connection has been made, you can ask for whatever you want — and get it. And out of that, says Gaulier, will come an action, a future.
How do you learn to speak the language of complicity? By finding the fixed point, the true character, the real you in all of the roles that you play. You’ll know that you’ve found it when you feel totally at home no matter where you are.
To help you find that point, Gaulier strips you of seriousness. Under all of those responsibilities, fears, and instincts for safety is your real character. He knocks his students back to their basic identity, mocking their appearance in order to reach the source of their raw energy — the fixed point, the truth from which they derive the greatest pleasure. ” A lot of this work throws your identity into the mixing bowl,” says Anderson. ” That raw energy that Gaulier searches for is who you are and who you have the potential to be.”
Once you find your true character, you’ll be able to find pleasure in the performance itself, in the work itself. A leader who feels pleasure gives off a sense of heightened energy. And to that end, Gaulier teaches serious professionals how to play the clown.
The clown is the most complicit character. It is the slightly fumbling aristocrat, the person dancing like a fool at the edge of all risk. The clown is the character who engages our sympathies, who speaks for us, who says and does the unspeakable, the undoable — and, in doing so, becomes a lightning rod for our emotions.
Gaulier looks for the clown in all of his students. And he knows just where to find it: It’s usually the part that people play with the most seriousness. ” This is the open-heart surgery part of the course,” he says. ” I can see people’s souls, and I reveal them. That is the point of my classes. That’s why you should be not boring but joyful — so that others can see your soul.”
Clowns play to the heart. They have nothing to lose, and so they have all of the freedom that they want. That is the pleasure to which others connect.
Performing your most serious characteristic as a clown lets you laugh at it. Once you are no longer attached to boring appearances — once you stop taking yourself so damn seriously! — you are free to act with pleasure. Clowns perform for an audience and don’t care if people laugh at them. And because they don’t care, they are free.
Send in Your Clown!
Gaulier is not finished with Ms. Too Nice. He turns to the class and says, ” She would make a great Salvation Army clown.” Under Gaulier’s gaze, it’s obvious what is wrong with this woman: her utter seriousness. She is playing ” nice” as if she were Meryl Streep, rather than Meg Ryan. It’s that seriousness that traps her. We stop listening when she speaks. We lean away from her. She does not capture us. It is a subtle but profound point: She undermines her own authority by playing the ” nice” role with such utter unbreakable seriousness.
” The clown character allows you to show your greatest strength,” says Gaulier. Play it, and you release the part of you that is too serious, too wrapped up in appearance, fear, self-consciousness, and old habits. ” Often,” he continues, ” your most beloved role keeps you small. This woman should try playing Medea or Clytemnestra” [two furies of the stage whose anger runs wild]. Gaulier is not suggesting that Ms. Too Nice start stabbing people. He is suggesting that she play the part of the good guy not as the role of a lifetime but as a laughable Salvation Army clown. She is to play her serious side for laughs. That will give her pleasure. That will set her free. Says Gaulier: ” She thinks of herself as a dancer — graceful, light. But that ideal is not healthy. Her time to be a dancer is over.”
Ms. Too Nice is about to learn how to laugh at her serious side. Once she does this, she will become more accessible to both herself and to others. Heroes have their own distinct humor. This woman is about to discover hers.
She begins acting the part of the clown. She starts dusting people off, wearing a big, stupid grin whenever she does something servile. Every gesture that she used to perform by rote, she now invests with thought. A smile is exaggerated. A nod is goofy. She starts enjoying herself: The role is giving her pleasure, and her seriousness is melting away. She is nice surprisingly. Later in the day, her caring role acquires a bit of an edge. Her nurturing gestures become less automatic, more subtle and thoughtful. When she defers to someone, she does it with a flourish, as if her doing so were a gift. The transformation is riveting. This woman has become larger.
” Make me wonderful,” people say. What they really mean by that is ” Don’t change me.” L’école Philippe Gaulier is a school for leaders: It makes people wonderful, and it changes them.
You walk through a tear in the curtain of reality when you come to study with Gaulier. It is the dimension of theater, and it’s a bit unreal. L’école Philippe Gaulier stands out in the dark, dreary muck of London like something out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ” The Hobbit,” tucked away in the London suburb of Cricklewood. On the opening day of class, 26 people are running in from the drizzle, entering the converted church hall. Pagans? Hobbits? You can’t be sure, not even when they introduce themselves as Philippe Gaulier’s students.
They are students, but they are also teachers. On first impression, many of them seem riveting. They make eye contact. Their open faces draw you in. They fix themselves in your memory like a powerful movie character etched in time. How do they accomplish that with just a handshake and a hello? Pleasure. Complicity. Connection.
The School of Humanity and the Theater of Complicity
Gaulier was not born not boring. For half his life, at least, he was quite dull. Growing up in Paris’s 11th arrondissement, Gaulier lived in a part of town that was bordered by both a prison and the cemetery that houses the bones of Simonie-Gabrielle Colette and Alexandre Dumas. To a sensitive soul, the neighborhood was a spiritual Three Mile Island. The atmosphere was seriously polluted, emotionally radioactive, and full of way too much seriousness for young Philippe.
” When I was 26, I was faced with a crisis,” recalls Gaulier. ” As an actor, I no longer got any pleasure from my job. When you don’t get pleasure from your work, you don’t have any chance of working at a more expert level or of feeling freer. I wanted to be a tragic actor, and every time I tried, I flopped. A friend of mine, an absolutely gorgeous tragic actor, said to me, ‘I must have a horrible destiny. I have been a bastard, and I have eaten with the dogs.’ That didn’t happen to me. I didn’t have such a dramatic life, but I did want to live more fully. I was blocked. I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to go to the Lecoq school. I stayed there as a student for two years and then as a teacher for nine more. At Lecoq, I discovered the pleasures of work and life.”
Under legendary acting teacher Jacques Lecoq, founder of École Jacques Lecoq, Gaulier learned a secret: You can achieve any great vision that you have of yourself — if your work gives you pleasure. That is how an actor or a leader inspires followers, attracts believers, wins contracts, and builds visions that become real. Gaulier heard the primitive music of leadership at the Lecoq school.
Lecoq founded his school in December 1956. When Gaulier joined Lecoq as a student 12 years later, a revolution was sweeping across Paris. ” The gods of the establishment were falling; they were in hell,” Gaulier says of 1968, a year that saw students take to the streets in cities all over the world. Now, 32 years later, in cities all over the world, the establishment is once again falling — this time in business. The old-economy-establishment companies are struggling. The new clowns, mavericks, and disrupters are on top. The scripts are being rewritten, and the roles are being reversed.
Lecoq, who died in 1999, ran his acting school as a sort of school of humanity. ” The first students were not only actors but also psychologists, ministers, doctors, architects, and writers,” says Anderson. In 1991, Gaulier moved to London, where he set up his own school. Among his former students are Roberto Benigni, Helena Bonham Carter, and Emma Thompson.
The most subversive thing about this kind of teaching, says Gaulier, is its emphasis on pleasure. Work has many parallels to method acting. Actors such as Robert De Niro and Al Pacino dwell on pain, loneliness, and fear. They use those qualities to boost their art — much in the same way that most overworked businesspeople sacrifice their lives to have more powerful careers. The problem is that under this philosophy of work, actors tend to live tormented lives. Gaulier saw no future in this route. He took the opposite route: complicity and clowning. Not only is this route more powerful, he believes, but it also translates into a happier, less stressful life. Leadership — command of the stage — comes from one thing: pleasure. And you can’t communicate pleasure unless you feel it.
The Primitive Script in which Business Is Written
Remember how your best professors took command of you? They did it by following the laws of melodrama. Forget information. Professor Wonderful would lean forward and then speak in a hushed, conspiratorial voice. She wouldn’t talk numbers; she’d talk big issues: life, death, love, misery. If lecturing on changes in life expectancies, for example, she’d dramatize how only since World War II have women’s life expectancies come to exceed those of men. She would physically place herself in a story, acting out the role of an observer at a Civil War graveyard, walking to the front of her classroom as if over burial grounds. Once there, she would point out a family plot, reading the gravestones of a succession of three wives: ” Hezekiah, who died at 23 during childbirth, is over here; Rebecca, mother of two, lies beside her, dead at 28; Emily is a few feet away, dead at 18; and at the summit lies the husband to all of them, Thomas, dead at 48.” She wouldn’t just tell you a story; she’d bring you inside a story. That’s melodrama.
Melodrama is not the damsel tied to the railroad tracks but the big issues — the good, the true, the beautiful, and the evil that must be conquered. It’s the basic, primitive script in which business is written. Think of most advertisements: You’re dead if you don’t buy an Armani suit. You’re selling your child up the river if you don’t invest in John Nuveen securities. You’re declaring your love if you give your mate a diamond from DeBeers. Melodrama is the script of anyone who persuades you to buy or do anything.
There is a point in Gaulier’s course when you take what you have learned about complicity — about finding your fixed point — and you put it to work on something larger. ” Melodrama demands a person to be big, to be grand,” Gaulier tells his students. ” How big do you have to be in order to reach your audience? Most people don’t come close to being the right size. Most people are nice. Or small. Or self-constrained. They’re so boooorrriinng that nobody sees them.” The actor who takes on melodrama must ” perform for the gods,” says Gaulier.
Gaulier takes us back to the origins of melodrama to show us why actors had to become bigger than life to command their audience’s attention. ” It was always dark onstage, and the ‘gods’ — the peasants sitting way up in the balcony — couldn’t see the actors,” he says. ” What did the audience members have in their stomachs? Two bottles of wine if they were on a diet, three or four if they weren’t. It’s the same response that we confront today, with people being distracted by a thousand things: In the old days of theater, everything swam in front of the audience’s eyes. Move your body, and you would confuse the audience.
” To play melodrama in that setting,” Gaulier continues, ” one’s actions had to be big. Melodrama is theater for poor people. Actors and leaders don’t naturally use gestures large enough to be seen by an audience that is far away — either physically, sitting in the balcony, or far away in the sense that audience members are removed from your message by uncertainty or cynicism. They must learn to offer a flower with panache. They must learn to play to the crowd.”
Gaulier teaches his students that melodrama is not exaggeration. It is relying on a script of emotions, suffering, and sympathy. He asks a young woman to stand before the group and say, ” My sister sold her body to buy me this chair.” He tells her that she must break our hearts when she says it. If she doesn’t, then she will have failed in taking command of us. Try as she might, she can’t touch us. At first, she overacts: ” My sister sold her body to buy me this chair,” she says, pretending to sob and then hanging her head. Gaulier knows that no hearts have been broken. Melodrama is in the small gestures, he tells her. She must win her audience’s sympathy before doing anything else. She must win it before she even says the line.
” Look up, but lower your head,” Gaulier says. That simple gesture melts us. It is the perfect gesture of complicity (not to mention the fetching look of Princess Diana). But the student still can’t get the line to work for her. Gaulier asks two young men to stand close behind her. Just as she starts to speak the line, they are instructed to lean in and gently kiss her neck. They perform this bizarre exercise, and she zings the line home. Her voice opens. It’s soft yet clear. Gaulier has given her a cattle prod of pleasure. Being kissed — twice! — is enough to stimulate her physically so that she brings pleasure into the line. She connects us to her emotions. She fills the stage. We are with her. The ridiculousness of the line disappears. We feel the music, the swell of her emotions.
The kissers disappear; they are no longer needed. ” Once you have that language of complicity in the body,” says Gaulier, ” you carry it with you. You can then use it easily, as needed.”
Gaulier believes that once you hear or feel the power of melodrama in your delivery, it stays in your body. You don’t forget it. You remember how to capture the audience, how to catch its sympathy. Awareness of the body is intrinsic to assuming the full size of your humanity.
Getting in Touch with the Leadership Body
Gaulier says that the body can be the most convincing instrument of leadership. He preaches an awareness of the physical and an appreciation for it. ” Sometimes you feel so light and strong that you want to fall in love — or buy a good sandwich,” he says. ” It’s a beautiful day, and you want to bring that physical awareness into your work.”
Not all leaders achieve their full size, what Gaulier calls ” aura.” ” There is a kind of permission that you feel around certain people,” he says. ” Charisma extends the body’s reach a foot in all directions. We are bigger when we have charisma.”
Over dinner at the end of the day’s workshop, Gaulier explains himself by pointing out two sets of diners: At one end of the room are two white men wearing shirts as pale as their skin. They are eating, moving only their hands and mouths. Their bodies and faces are otherwise almost immobile. At another table, a black family is smiling and sharing food. ” Which group do you think dreams more?” Gaulier asks me. I say, without hesitation, the black diners. They are looser, spirited, communicating with their bodies. The white men look static and entombed. ” When you look at some people, your imagination is ready to work,” says Gaulier. ” They give you more of an opening. Those are the leaders whom people want to follow. Those are the leaders who stimulate the imagination.”
Leaders must display energy — ” but not raw energy,” cautions Gaulier. ” Energy must be trained into impulse, spirit, élan.” The problem with most leaders is that, even if they have energy, they stay in their mind. ” When you stay in your mind, you don’t have fun, dreams, or spirit,” says Gaulier. ” You can’t tell a story.”
Gurus of leadership and directors of theater insist that their work is played out entirely in the realm of the psychological. That’s why most leaders, like most actors, have developed terrific subtlety of range — but only from the neck up. To play the role of the leader in its entirety, facial and vocal expression are not enough. Outstanding actors, like outstanding leaders, have always brought their whole body to their roles.
Isabelle Anderson believes that training a leader’s body should not stop with developing strength, flexibility, or coordination. ” You could do 100 sit-ups and still look uninspiring,” she says, ” because doing sit-ups doesn’t develop awareness or consciousness of what’s being expressed by your gestures.” In other words, leaders must develop a body that is an expressive instrument, not just a physically fit instrument. They must develop an intelligent body.
” We have lost so much awareness of the body as an expression of who we are that we lead only from the head up,” continues Anderson. ” But basically, we are animals. When two animals meet, they size each other up quickly: friend or foe? Dominant or submissive? We have only a fraction of time, a few seconds, to establish our authority.”
Drawing on Lecoq’s and Gaulier’s teachings, Anderson analyzes bodies according to energy types: “We are each predominantly a head, a chest, or a hip personality,” she says. “Head people are distinct because they walk with their head leading the way–preceding their body by an inch or two.” Head people tend to define their roles intellectually and relate almost exclusively with others through ideas, numbers, or concepts. They leave those who are not on the same wavelength out in the cold.
“Chest people are concentrated in their lungs or their voice,” says Anderson. “They may walk with their chest out and talk in a constrained voice. For these people, everything is about passion, breath, inspiration. They can be easily exhausted: They may use up their energy on a role that is too inspired, too airy, too difficult to follow.
“Hip people stand firm, hips and legs solidly planted, feet square on the ground,” she continues. “Their energy never flows any higher; they are not inspiring. Hip people tend to be rooted, conservative. They give off a feeling of heaviness and determination.”
Assessing your energy type helps you locate your energy blockage. It helps you find the points within you that are dead–the points that keep you boring. Then it’s a matter of distributing your energy so that it flows through your entire body. As your energy moves through your body, you gain size and authority. The most mesmerizing figures are those whose entire bodies communicate energy. Those are the leadership bodies.
Anderson leads her clients in exercises that center their energy. Head people stand barefoot and wiggle their toes. They are told to walk consciously–heel, ball, toe. When you walk with energetic intention, you communicate that intention to others. At the same time, you become unaware of others. Magically, crowds clear. An intentional walker can part seas.
Anderson has a different exercise for chest people. She teaches them how to breathe from the stomach, to break the blockage in their lungs. “Breath is connected to the mind,” she says. One exercise that she teaches chest people is how to deepen their breath in order to help their mind become steady and clear: “Put your hand on your abdomen, breathe in, and count to 10,” she says. “Notice when you breathe whether that hand comes into your body or away from it. When most people breathe in, their hand goes in. When they breathe out, their hand goes out. That’s wrong, and it shocks most people to learn that. When you breathe in, your stomach should expand, so your hand should move out. You become bigger when you are filled with breath; you can use that to push out big emotions, to make complicit connections.
“You must always have a deep breath under your voice,” she continues. “Otherwise, speaking is nothing more than your will. And that is never as effective a sound as when speaking is your conviction. Breathe properly, and your conviction will speak.”
Hip people are instructed to lean forward in order to engage the mind and become more leaderlike. The leadership body uses energy to communicate spirit and excitement. “It is,” says Anderson, “as much a requirement as being slim, fit, or healthy.”
Playing Yourself As Big as Life
“So does one need to go to drama school to learn how to do all this?” I ask Gaulier. No, he says: “Life is a school. Experience teaches you many things. But often, we learn the wrong things from our experiences.
“A lot of events make us contract,” he continues. “We learn how to play smaller and smaller roles. A woman may come to think that she is stupid because she has made a few bad decisions. Her voice grows quieter, and she becomes less trusting. Her effectiveness diminishes without her knowing why. Others see that she is performing the role of the frightened creature, but she doesn’t see that.
“Or a man may feel that he has no right to display his emotions because he doesn’t trust them. And so he, too, performs without pleasure. He cannot dedicate himself to larger purposes. When experiences threaten us and make us small, we have to knock back the limiting gestures that we’ve learned. That’s when the craft of theater is so useful. We can learn to become larger characters by becoming more like our true selves.”
Harriet Rubin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the author of The Princessa: Machiavelli For Women (Doubleday, 1997) and Soloing: Realizing Your Life’s Ambitions (HarperCollins, 1999), as well as the director of Working Diva (www.ivillage.com/workingdiva). Contact Philippe Gaulier (email@example.com) or Isabelle Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org) by email, or visit l’ecole Philippe Gaulier on the web (http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/town/lane/kba31/index.htm).