By Sam Chittenden (United Kingdom)

Leadership is enacted or performed.  Great communication, engagement and connection with people is vital.  Leaders are required to create meaning for people, and to be able to tell compelling organisational stories.  Emotional intelligence is also needed; along with the ability to integrate our inner and outer worlds.  Above all, creativity is a key success factor in today’s uncertain and complex environments.  At Different Development, we believe that lessons from the stage and acting training can bring much to leadership development.  Coaching in particular can provide a space where leaders can practice ‘doing themselves differently’ in order to develop new skills and behaviours.  We use approaches from the performing arts, and a rehearsal dynamic, to bring a new edge to 1-1 and group coaching settings.

The Rehearsal Space

A good coaching relationship provides a safe space where a client can explore challenges, and look at some of the different choices they can make.  Often this will be a conversation about what it’s like ‘back there’.  Lots of coaching tools – such as the meta mirror – work by bringing ‘out there’ more into the room.  In my experience, the more ‘real’ we can make this experience, the more powerful the insight and the more likely any decisions and changes are to stick.  In our coaching approach, the link is made explicit by setting up the coaching environment as a rehearsal space where clients can try out different things for size, and take risks they may not yet feel able to take in the work environment. The approach mimics some of the stress they may be experiencing at work, but with the ability to call time out.  It is a space where a client can switch between being ‘on stage’ and up in the balcony, reviewing their performance.  Our job is to provide the right mix of support and challenge to clients to make a shift.  The theatre metaphor brings a sense of play to the coaching, and can help to reduce the natural resistance to doing something different.

Source: iCN Issue 5 (Leadership Coaching); pages 71-73

About Sam Chittenden

Sam Chittenden is a coach and facilitator with twenty years’ public sector leadership experience.  She runs the creative company Different Development, based in Brighton, UK ( Sam is an actor and director, a published poet, and is currently writing a book about creative leadership.  She has a wide range of public speaking, media interview and performance experience. She leads the internationally renowned Mastery of Self Expression workshop (, and a variety of creative Masterclasses, including being a Leader.