How Good Are Your Acting Skills?

10/23/2014 05:56 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2014

I learned a long time ago that a great CEO must also be a great actor. Some people will take exception to this statement, but I stand by it emphatically. To be truly great at running your organization, you are always "on." You are always in the spotlight with your employees, customers, investors and anyone else with whom you come into contact.

You are always performing.

As CEOs, we tend to think of ourselves as regular people, and give little thought to how others view us. We come into work and think little about the perceptions of others we may come into contact with. But that's the wrong way to think. Every day, we are influencing people, simply by the way we act, look, talk and gesture. When we are upset, others take notice. When we are happy, people can sense it - they can see it in the way we walk and talk. When we are scared, they can smell it in the air. We need to start thinking about how others might see us, and then presenting ourselves in a way that inspires confidence, trust and enthusiasm in those that we influence.

In the 1979 semi-autobiographical movie, All That Jazz, Bob Fosse greets himself in the mirror every morning with the exclamation: "It's showtime!" He knew that every day, he was "on." His life was a performance. The same goes for the CEO. Every morning, you need to say to yourself, "It's showtime" because you are getting ready to perform. If you walk into the building with a scowl, you are setting a miserable tone for the day with everyone. People may worry that something is wrong, or that the company is in trouble. On the other hand, if you walk into the building with a smile, shoulders back, head held high, the employees are going to mirror that attitude by feeling confident and encouraged. You may find it hard to believe, but you have that much influence on everyone, just because of your position at the top of the food chain. Employees, customers, suppliers and investors look to you for cues about how things are going. Therefore, it's you responsibility to be a consummate actor, and provide them with positive signals, even if the sky is falling (in fact, especially if the sky is falling).

This means that you must often set aside your own feelings and how you carry those around, and take on the role of actor, presenting a different person to them...one that inspires confidence and security. For a great CEO, every day is "showtime."