Most actors imagine themselves in lead roles in plays, series, and movies, and spend their early days studying the craft as well as marketing themselves. Yet in order to succeed, actors have to be prepared for the full reality of what they’re asking for—and creating a sustainable career in lead roles requires skills beyond what you might expect.
First of all, what do you consider to be the benefits of being a lead actor? The typical answer I hear is: To have better roles, get positive attention and accolades, have more creative control, and make more money. These are important things to many actors. However, I rarely hear, “to inspire others to learn and grow," “to make a positive difference in the industry,” or “to help projects become successful through my presence.” Those who do say that tend to be the ones who are already successful and their attitude was probably part of what got them there.
Booking a lead role in any project brings responsibility to the project itself and to the people in it—which essentially describes leadership.
In his best-selling book "Inspirational Presence: The Art of Transformational Leadership," Jeff Evans, Ph.D., a leadership development consultant writes, “As a leader’s sphere of influence increases, the requirements for skills related to emotional intelligence goes up as well.” In other words, the more successful you become as an actor, the more you’ll need competencies that go far beyond technical or creative ability. You will need higher levels of interpersonal skills. You need to be a good leader.
In an interview I had recently with Jeff, he shared three ways an actor can become a better leader, and therefore a more likely candidate for lead roles.
1. Stand for the project. Hold the highest good of the overall project and show up every day to make it happen. This means being more than just part of the creative process. It means doing your part to create the shared vision of the project as it emerges.
2. Empower Others. Work just as hard to make the other cast members as successful as you do for yourself. A great lead actor will perform lines off-camera just as fully as when he or she is on-camera. Give people the highest possible base for their performances. Creative processes can produce uncertainty and conflict, so work to bring people together in an environment of success and avoid negativity and drama on the set.
3. Be Inspired. Many leaders talk about motivating others to change for the better. Motivation, however, requires an outside force to move people along. Inspiring others, on the other hand, plants a seed inside them that grows and becomes it’s own force of change. To inspire others, you have to be inspired, and that requires you to be in harmony with your choices and direction. Be a force of inspiration by making sure you’re on path and making a positive difference no matter where you are in your career.
I’ve learned many things from Jeff’s teaching, one being that leadership skills are essential for every one of us no matter what we are doing. Being a good leader means that you contribute to the system you’re in and inspire others toward something greater than what already exists— and that means you get to be a force of positive energy in a world that really needs it.
Justina Vail, PCC CHt, is a life coach, master NLP practitioner, hypnotherapist, speaker, award-winning author, and award-winning actor. She is owner of Actors Life Coaching and author of the award-winning new book “How to be a Happy Actor in a Challenging Business: A Guide to Thriving Through it All."
Vail coaches actors all over the world via Skype and in person. For info about private coaching packages as well as Actors Life Coaching seminars and workshops visit www.actorslifecoaching.com.