She’s done it again—Meryl Streep has joined the elite set of 3-time winners of an Oscar, this time for playing Margaret Thatcher. But Streep doesn’t just play leaders, she is one! And in recent interviews, she gave her own insights into what characteristics turn ordinary leaders into stars.
Streep, who has also transformed herself into Julia Child and the Prada Devil (AW—we know who she’s supposed to be) among other memorable roles, recently gave pre-Oscar interviews to CBS and NPR. She told CBS’s John Baldoni that in her research for playing these characters, she found that true leaders must possess these attributes—authenticity, consistency, calm in the face of adversity, and focus.
And she says, leaders can use acting techniques to achieve these attributes—just as she used them to portray powerful women.
Streep told the interviewer that, “like actors, leaders need to master the art of authenticity. To some that may sound like heresy—how can a leader ‘act’ authentic?” She explains that leaders must clearly project—much like an actor on the stage—their own true character to close associates in order to win their confidence—a prerequisite to great leadership.
And leaders must be consistent. “There is nothing more unsettling to an organization than when people do not know what mood the boss is in. Mood will affect decision making, and that’s a dangerous proposition. …leaders cannot let such a disposition negatively affect their relations with others,” says the Vassar grad.
“This is where the acting comes in. Leaders owe it to their followers to keep it together; to remain calm in the face of adversity. This is not easy, and frankly takes years of practice, not to mention the experience of not getting it right. And so as an actor relies upon technique, so too can a leader,” she says in the interview.
To stay calm in the face of adversity? “Go off by yourself,” she says, “Calm yourself. Keep calm. Do not raise your voice. Relax your facial muscles. Keep breathing normally,” she advises. “I know leaders who practice such techniques, and it works for them.”
And, she concludes, “Always remain on the scene, remain focused…and keep striving to ‘make it real’.”
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