The Power of Play: A Key Leadership Competency

When you hear the word 'play' used in the context of 'leadership', what comes to mind? Do you have a positive, negative, or mixed response? 

Do you think 'irresponsible, childish, unfocused,?' OR
do you think 'enthusiastic, spontaneous, and creative'? 

I used to think that being a leader meant being 'the serious one' to keep all those 'other unfocused ones' on track. Now, I'm beginning to realise that as a leader sets the emotional tone for an organisation, a leader's playfulness is a 'serious' matter. 

A big buzz word these days is 'innovation'. Innovation is a 'serious' word which means that you need to stay fresh and flexible to keep up with the rapid pace of development in business. If you want to foster innovation, you need to foster an environment of play or willingness to explore in order for your team to have the freedom and trust to activate their creative potential. It's difficult to come up with new ideas
if you're not being 'playful'. 

Some of the online dictionary definitions of ‘playful’ include 'full of fun and high spirits', 'humorous, jesting', and 'full of gaiety' . Other words such as 'jolly', 'greatly pleasing', and 'enjoyable' show up when you continue to dig down into the definitions. 

Of course you want your organisation to be an enjoyable place to work. 
So, how much importance do you give 'PLAY' in your workplace? 

Recently, I've begun breaking out of my own 'box' or comfort zone of my familiar presentation structure, and summoning the courage to try new things. Actually, I wouldn't quite call it courage - rather a spirit of playfulness and exploration. I took a 'risk' and made myself vulnerable, trying out a couple of new 'audience games' in one of my recent keynote talks. I tied the games into a key points about leadership, and the result is that I had more fun and achieved a greater sense of connection with my audience. The program coordinator who'd arranged for me to speak wrote to me the next day saying 'Thank you so much for your energetic and very enjoyable presentation.  It was obvious that everyone thoroughly enjoyed it and that you connected with them!’ This was a great affirmation to me of the power of play as a key leadership skill. 

When we look at life as an adventure, we take the pressure off ourselves to 'be' some sort of 'serious' leader, and allow ourselves to play with our team in an authentic and spontaneous way which leads to much greater results. 

So, what can you do to be more playful today?  Have fun exploring :-) 

Sally Mabelle, ‘The Voice of Leadership’ Specialist.  -  Inspiring clear, confident, and connected communication for personal and cultural transformation.