Do you have the guts to expose yourself like she does? It gets rewarded.

Are you owning your stage?
On Monday night, we saw a fantastic cabaret show. The star was Jane Lynch. But truthfully, we were mostly there to see my wife Brenda’s long-time friend, Kate Flannery, who was also in the show. You might know Kate as “Meredith” from The Office. (Yes, she’s as fun in person as on TV.)

One element from this show stage translates 100% to your leadership stage. If you can pull this off, you’ll never lack a loyal following.

Pros know their job and play their part.
Kate Flannery leadership stageKate’s played many roles in her 30+ years in show biz. In this show, she was singing with and providing on-stage hilarity for her friend Jane, along with a great crooner, Tim Davis. They were backed up by the super hot Tony Guerrero Quintet. Real pros playing their parts.

Jane’s gift is dead-pan and steady humor, so Kate’s role in this show is to be quick and over-the-top outrageous. Kate delivered perfect harmonies while throwing her body around the stage getting people to laugh so hard they cried — even during sad folk songs. It made Jane even more entertaining.

Katie got the entire audience to engage, clapping, or waving their arms at inappropriate times. If they didn’t, she called them out in a fun way until they joined in. Even the band musically zigged instead of zagging to keep the audience alive.

We never knew what was going to happen so we had to pay attention.

These eight pros know a stage secret:
We are craving someone who will dare to fail right in front of us.

Fully exposed is fully rewarded. 
We’re drawn to someone who will take the risk and perform without a net. We don’t feel nearly as connected to the neatly scripted and expertly edited performance.

So much is staged and scripted in the world that we bond with that person risking it with us.

  • The Grateful Dead created ravenously loyal fans by making it up every night, not by making edited albums in the studio.
  • Poorly shot YouTube videos of real-life events get more views than the cleaner, voiced-over versions on the 10 o’clock news.
  • Millions tune in for So You Think You Can Dance and The Voice to watch people willing to risk public failure to pursue their dream.

Your audience wants you to give them two things — this applies for leaders, not just performers.

  1. The unpredictable/surprise: This keeps us alert and helps us feel more alive.
  2. Participation/co-creation: This helps us feel that we’ve contributed and it reminds us that we matter.

Unskilled “winging it” doesn’t work.
Monday night’s show wasn’t just a bunch of hacks cutting up on stage. All eight performers honed their skills for years. Plus, they rehearsed this show tirelessly before they hit the road.

On that foundation, they could cut loose live on stage and invite the audience to be a part of the show.

You can do the same: Train and rehearse. Then, be real.

How much are you willing to risk for loyalty and engagement?

  • Do you deliver the fully scripted presentation or do you invite unpredictable dialogue?
  • Do you allow true Q&A at town halls or do you plant friendly questions in the audience?
  • Do you conveniently forget to include dissenters in decision-making or do you take the risk for building something even better?

The opportunity to co-create with you gets people to invest unreasonably.
We drove two hours each way to catch this show and didn’t get to bed until 2:30am the next morning. I’d do it again next week if I could.

The people you’re wanting to inspire feel the same way.
Are you inviting them to join you in a live performance or to observe your squeaky-clean delivery of the company line?

If you’re asking me to bring my all, show me you’re all in.

Please share with me below, when is the next time you’re going to risk going all in to engage your best people?


  • Scott Mann says:

    David – this post came at such a great time – I just finished training a class of Green Berets on leadership and communications skills – tough, skeptical, and all-pro crowd. It requires being all in, and even after years of working around these guys is terrifying – it is very dynamic and I never know what will happen – but if I follow your advice it’s always amazing. Gonna try and be all in during my July Beach Body talk at Summit in July. Many miles and practices to get ready to “come out and play” at that event.
    Keep writing and leading David! Great stuff man

    • David Martin says:

      Thanks, Scott. Congratulations on going all in with your Green Berets. A tough crowd can become a loyal crowd when you show them you’re not holding back. I’m sure it was more fun for you that way, too. When you play that same way on the Beach Body stage, those people will follow you anywhere. Great work, Scott. People are going to keep showing up for you because they know you’re risking it all.

  • Jerry Lujan says:

    David – great post. Nothing like being in the presence of real pros who are prepared to win and not afraid to lose. They are so attractive because it’s so authentic. We can all learn from that!

    • David Martin says:

      Thanks, Jerry. I like the way you say that: prepared to win and not afraid to lose.