circus_athlete2Yesterday, I went to Sarasota, Florida’s Sailor Circus performance … where we saw students, ages 8 to 18, juggling, performing gymnastics on roller skates and tight-rope walking. This program is 67 years old and touts “developing leadership” as one of the benefits of belonging.

That made me think!

From a business perspective, what do people need to learn to become leaders? Sure there are skills that workers can develop on the job to become supervisors, managers, executives. But what skills can they learn as youngsters that will lead to this type of high achievement?

Here are five qualities I believe are developed by becoming circus athletes. What do you think?

  1. Discipline – Showing up to practice every day, on time, prepared. Making sure to stay in good health by eating correctly, exercising and building muscle. I would value this quality in the work place.
  2. Trust – Relying on a partner to hold you safely while they twirl you around their head or balance you on their shoulders. Having faith that your colleague will pass juggler balls in precision so that you won’t drop one and look foolish.
  3. Perseverance – Doing the same thing over and over, and over again until you get it right, repeatedly, without fail. You can count on it because you have practiced tenaciously.
  4. Fearlessness – Climbing up and performing on a high wire or a trapeze takes guts. Memorizing announcements as the “Ring Master”, speaking to the group without any notes can be daunting. Getting up in front of a crowd and performing at the age of 10 … or any age … can be terrifying. Overcoming these kinds of fears develops the ability to take risks, a leadership requirement.
  5. Confidence – if I can walk a high-wire, perform in front of crowds, spend endless hours practicing – you gain the confidence to tackle anything in life … starting a business of your own, leading an innovative project, or just doing the best you can with the resources you have.

How do you feel about this list? Do you think it contains skills that help an individual become a leader? The question is, what does it actually take? Is there a formula? Are there predictable things that can be done?

I believe that people can be leaders … even with themselves. They can be a strong “bosses” of their lives, their careers, their interpersonal relationships or they can just follow along.

It seems to me that any activity involvement which could develop discipline, trust, perseverance, fearlessness and confidence would be something worth doing.

Watch for more articles on ways to see and develop leadership in a new way … from an egalitarian viewpoint.