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Great Leaders Sit on the Floor

David Sherry
2 min read

The healthy leader settles a meeting the moment it begins, like a gatekeeper to control the egos, filters, and guards that are put up as people enter this space.

I read a book about an improv artist from the sixties who used to be a teacher.

He would begin the first day of his classes always the same…

By sitting on the floor.

And as students entered the space, they would see the teacher sitting on the ground beneath them. And slowly…other students would start to sit down on the floor until everyone was seated there.

Then it'd go quiet, and everyone would be looking around at each other, and the teacher would say...

"If any of you fail this class, it is my fault."


There is a dynamic that leaders must create, and this is about the most beautiful example I've ever seen of it.

Let me explain why this is so effective.

In meetings, most people seek status. And the reason they seek status is because of fear. If there is fear in the meeting, fear of being judged, being rejected, been challenged…

Armor is created.

Armor that hides what you truly want to say.

Or armor that tries to show off your toughness through bravado.

This armor acts as a filter; it is between us and everyone else.

Once this filter is put up, it coats all that is said with a tinge of dishonesty. It is not that what people say is untrue. It is that there are varying degrees of truth. The truth I'm talking about is about purity, rather than honesty.

The purity to share how you really feel is its own type of truth that exists outside of the idea of "facts" – as there are no "facts" as it relates to our feelings and emotions, are there?

These feelings and emotions guide a large degree of our decisions and interactions. The problem with armor is that it covers up our purity. This does a disservice to ourselves and to any business.

Because here is the key point…

If we have thick armor up in a meeting…

We are no longer meeting to solve a problem in a business, but rather a problem with our own status.

And you can't be effective solving two problems at once. And you can't be useful when you are using what's being discussed as a means to a different end—the one of validating your power or hiding your fear.

A great leader sits on the floor.

Lowering his or her status. Lowering his or her shield.

And then others follow suit.

A great leader takes all the arrows before they are shot.

Accepting all responsibility, accepting all failure.

And the results are counterintuitive.

And in a twist of irony, as the leader sits low, her status is raised.

And in a twist of irony, as the leader takes on the arrows of the group…

She is saved from any harm…

As always, let me know what's on your mind this week,

xx David

Personal Leadership and Productivity