Leadership in your troupes, groups, and impro Partnerships

Published by ShawnKinley on

group of people having a meeting

You, your Troupes, Groups,
and Impro Partnerships

silhouette of people on hill

Are you looking to create an Improvisation project with a limited run or a company that will attract many participants over the years? Are you looking for an impro dynasty, a 90-second flash mob, or a successful solo freelance career? Are you stepping into an existing project? How will you accomplish your goals? And once you start, what comes next?

Leadership or lack of it can make or break your dreams to build an improvisation community, company, or career.

This three-part exploration will look at a leader’s:

  • PLAN to succeed,
  • STYLES leaders use to make the projects and team run functionally, creatively, and feel enveloped in a positive environment.
  • STRENGTHS leaders can work on
Like all things IMPROVISATION related, read this with a flexible mind and creative attitude. Rigid rules and doctrine do little to enhance long term sustainability and growth.


It might seem a little ‘simple’ to write down what you want and who you are but, how clearly you see the future affects present behaviour.  Your long term plans are easily derailed without clear images of your bigger picture.  Vision Statements, and Mission Statements have been the cornerstone of successful endeavours for as long as we have… endeavoured.

VISION statement details where the organization aspires to go. Why does your company exist? What do you hope to accomplish in the next several years?  

A MISSION statement defines the organization’s business, its objectives, and how it will reach these objectives. 



If you don’t know what you want, (what you really really want…) you should consider it now.

MOST groups fracture and become dysfunctional because there is no clear idea of who they are and where they are going. Most Groups!

Some groups fall apart because they grow without clear direction. At some point, members of the group wants to become “professional”, while others want to focus just on “fun”. Another part of the group wants to explore “long form” while the others want “Genre-based, Comedy, short form where everyone plays emotive shapes” (No… I’ve actually never heard that last one… but you get my point right?

People without clear vision wander off in all directions and fall off metaphorical cliffs. A group without focus eventually falls apart.

Of course, some people will leave regardless of your plans or vision. There is a natural attrition rate as people change their life focus, move away, etc, but when the rate of people stepping away is higher than 10% a year the problem is probably a conflict between what the leader proposes as a vision and what the reality in the group is. 

When good people start jumping ship, you might be experiencing a problem with vision in leadership.

On an individual level… if you are looking at the vision for your personal work, consider your passion. If you are feeling that you are only 50% as passionate now as you once were, then your personal vision and reality are not in sync. Something needs to be changed.

Taking into account that you should know your CORE VALUES, the first steps in leadership are awareness, definition, and communication of vision. This doesn’t mean that your vision can’t change down the line. Healthy development should take this evolution into account.

Answer these questions:

  • WHAT DO YOU WANT IN AN IDEAL REALITY? (No limits in defining your target! You are super powerful, rich, competent, and capable. Limit LATER, Dream now.)
  • WHAT ENVIRONMENT DO YOU WANT TO WORK/CREATE IN? (Physical, Emotional, and Social environment)
  • WHAT IMPACT DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE ON OTHERS AND ON YOURSELF? (You WILL impact others. You will change yourself. How do you want everyone to feel at the end of the day? What do you want them to experience? How do you want everyone to be changed?)
  • WHAT WOULD YOU DO/NEVER DO TO ACHIEVE YOUR VISION (Know your CORE VALUES and behavioral limitations. Saying, “I would do ANYTHING to be on stage” is not truthful. How many of your friends would you push aside? How many shows would you do for free? What if you could only work for tyrants? Be honest).
If you’ve answered those questions, you have an idea of the target you are shooting for in an ideal reality and your relationship to your vision.  If it doesn’t feel right, go back and ask yourselves those questions again.

The last three questions focus on your Core Values. Being clear about where you stand and who you are sheds light on where you are going and how you get there.

Put the answers to those questions into one coherent thought. If you can do that, you probably have the beginnings of a good Vision Statement.


Communicating the vision is as important as having a vision in the first place. Communication starts with taking your visionary ideas and putting them into… 


Your Vision statement should be simple and inspiring, elegant and efficient.

 It is a streamlined statement but shouldn’t be a marketing pitch. It shouldn’t be intellectual or complicated. It’s a reminder to you and your team of the target you fly towards. Be specific. Be simple.

Here are a few vision statements from companies you might recognize:

  1. Ben & Jerry’s: “Making the best ice cream in the nicest possible way.”
  2. Habitat for Humanity: “A world where everyone has a decent place to live.”
  3. TED: “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives, and, ultimately, the world.”
  4. Warby Parker: “We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun.”
  5. Amnesty International: “Our vision is a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.”
  6. Amazon: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

While hanging out with the team that developed “Det Andre Improvisation Teatret” in Oslo, Norway- (one of the best improvisation companies in the world) – I heard them say this phrase often.


  That might not sound like much, but it was the start of a vision for a group that has evolved year after year, being honest to the essence of where they came from.

In the statement, you hear their core value – if it’s not fun, it’s not what we want to do. Simple, elegant, and easy to remember.

Their vision doesn’t tell them WHAT to do but it reminds them of where they are going.

If you are one person looking at ways to lead yourself better, repeat your vision statement to yourself once and a while. Write it down and leave it where you can see it. Hold yourself accountable. Ask yourself occasionally, “Is this what you want?” and, “Are you still on the path that inspires you?”  

If this vision is about a group or company, then it must be clearly and strongly placed in everyone’s mind. Have it in your newsletter. Write it on the wall of your office. Say it in meetings. Ask those in the team if what you are doing fits into the vision.

What you want is important. It reminds you on the difficult days why you are doing what you are doing.  Business News Daily has a good article on Vision Statements...

When you have an ideal target drawing you forward, it’s time to look at the MISSION…

The MISSION STATEMENT is how you will achieve that visionary target.

Inspiration grows with a visionary purpose but it dies with inaction, and weakens when the great vision you started with is ignored.

The mission statement is there to push you forward and affect your action. Here are mission statements from companies you might know (watch for the action words – Build, Offer, Make, Provide, etc):

  1. Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
  2. Amazon: We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.
  3. TED: Spread ideas. TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. On TED.com, we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.
  4. Tesla Motors: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport
  5. Ben & Jerry’s: To make, distribute, and sell the finest-quality ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.
  6. Google:   organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

    In one or two sentences can you say how you plan to move toward your vision? 

    What will you MAKE? What will you CREATE? Who will you ENGAGE & ENTERTAIN? Where will you GO to achieve your vision? Find active words and be as clear as you can about what you will do to move closer to the ideal world of your dreams.

    How do you use the Mission Statement?

    Imagine you are given a choice of shows to do or people to work with. One choice offers more money but isn’t the kind of thing that fits into your plan. The other choice pays less but gives you the exposure and expression that your mission statement speaks about.

    Do the second one. 

    If you were honest about what you wanted, and you were being reasonable about how to get there, then the second choice is going to feed your ideal and practical desires in the long run.

    Consider your artistic creations.  You ask yourself, WHAT PROJECT DO I WANT TO CREATE NEXT WITH MY GROUP? 

    Without vision or an eye to the future you might create things that don’t actually get you anywhere.  You might find yourself in a rut repeating old ideas or chasing past success. It’s easy to be distracted.

    Your vision and Mission statements will guide you.

    I remember Warren Buffet talking about investing. He said “KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRICE AND VALUE”

    Consider, that your VISION and MISSION statements are your highest values. They aim at the pinnacle of who you want to be. Choosing that Value over something that will pay a few more euros, dollars, kroner or dirhams should always be an easy choice.

     A group guided by great vision will always be the one that others want to be involved with. They will be the ones growing and attracting audiences that will help the company grow further.

    Know what you want. Know what you will do to get there. And then Lead the way!

    When your Vision Statement and Mission Statement are looking a little tattered and no longer serve to guide you, sit down with the leaders in your group and ask yourselves again, “Who are we NOW? Where do we want to go? How will we move in that direction?”

    IN Part 2 of our Leadership in Improvisation exploration we will look at the STYLES leaders have and when they flourish or fail.

    Categories: BizzTheory


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