What Actors, Speakers and Leaders Have in Common

Last Friday, I had the privilege of learning from Steve Lowell at our CAPS Annual Speaker School.   In his session, Steve presented his adaptation of Patsy Rodenburg’s Three Circles of Energy.  Patsy developed these three circles while studying the difference between actors that had ‘it’ and actors that didn’t.  As Steve outlined how these three circles of energy also applied to speakers, I started thinking … this also applies to leaders.

Actors, speakers and leaders are all in the communication business.  It is our role, our responsibility to communicate a message, to create a vision, to inspire and effect change.  Our ability to do that successfully is dependent on the circle of energy we are working from.

First Circle

A lot of managers start here.  This circle is defined as uncertainty and lack of confidence.  Managers in this circle find it difficult to address conflict or make timely decisions.  They focus on themselves; what do others think of me? Am I respected? Do they like me?  Am I doing a good job? Will I get fired?  Managers in this circle provide hints as to expectations instead of clear direction because they fear being perceived as bossy or controlling.


Third Circle

The reason I am putting third circle next is because many people swing from first to third, before attaining second circle. The third circle is defined by directives and command.  Managers in this circle don’t ask for advice, input or suggestions.  They know exactly how and why tasks and responsibilities are to be completed.   Many times their intention is to help by imparting their wisdom upon their subordinates.


Second Circle

Second circle leaders are confident and self-assured. They speak directly and ask lots of questions. They value and respect the contribution of everyone on their team. They look for and recognize people who have strengths in areas they are weak in.  Second circle leadership is about shared experiences and opportunities.  The team succeeds and fails together. They learn and grow together.  Second circle leaders are willing coaches and mentors.


As a leader, it may be appropriate to step into circle one or three in some situations.  There are times when tough calls and decisions must be made; when time or safety constraints means putting on the mantle of control.  There may be times when taking a big step back is appropriate, even if it seems like too much is being given or taken away.  Strong leaders assess each individual situation as one piece of a much bigger picture and know when to step out of the second circle for a short time.

The key is that when moving out of second circle, it is done with purpose and with intention and only for a short time. Ultimately, we connect and communicate most effectively when we look at goals, purposes and challenges from a shared perspective.

What do you think about this?  What are some signs or clues that indicate which circle of energy a manager (or speaker and actor!) is in?