Adapt To Be More Adept

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to help you better adapt to new audiences. Reading time: 3:04

        You’re beautiful and your sexy hair, stylish clothes and stunning makeup are just as beautiful. After all, you’re an actress with all the glamour that draws fans on stage and screen.

Audrey Meadows and Jackie Gleason

Audrey Meadows and Jackie Gleason

     So what’s the chances that you would allow yourself to be professionally photographed while you’re wearing curlers, a torn housecoat and no makeup? Audrey Meadows did that and earned the contested TV role as the wife of Ralph Kramden in the Jackie Gleason’s sitcom The Honeymooners in 1955 .

      And in the process, the famous actress of her time modeled a leadership behavior that the most influential leaders follow even today more than a half century later:

Adapt to your audience’s
fears, concerns

and expectations
before you make your presentation,

before you ask for the order or for the job.

       Audry Meadows, the former Broadway musical star in Top Banana, had a method to her madness. She wanted the role of playing Jackie Gleason’s wife in the sitcom. But Gleason was reluctant to even consider her.

Audrey Meadows

Audrey Meadows

                 He thought that Audrey Meadows—the sister of another glamorous actress (Jayne Meadows)– was too attractive to be a credible wife of an average guy like Kramden, an overweight, down-on-his luck, bus driver living in a bleak, run down apartment.

                But Meadows alieviated his fears with her own brand of leadership: overcoming her ego to adapt her physical appearance to the fears, concerns and expectations of her audience–no makeup and curlers etc.

              “That’s our Alice,” Gleason beamed when he saw the custom photos of Meadows. She got the job and became even more of a leader skilled in engaging followers (a.k.a. fans).

              So did another actor and comedian who adapted and became even more of a leader skilled in engaging followers (a.k.a. fans).

           It all began when De Wolf Hopper, a popular Broadway performer in the summer of 1888,  learned that professional baseball players were to be in his audience.

       Hopper ran across a poem printed in a newspaper two months before that he thought would be especially meaningful to the baseball players from the New York Giants and the visiting Chicago White Stockings. So adapted his performance and became even more adept for this audience.

       The poem was a hit and De Wolf Hopper went on to even greater fame. So many fans wanted to hear him recite that famous poem he delivered in more than 10,000 times in his career, making the poet Ernest Lawrence Thayer a legend in his own time turning Casey at the Bat into a classic. Here’s an excerpt:


Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows in The Honeymooners

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day…
But then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.”

     Adapt and become better adept. That a key leadership skill whether you’re wearing a fancy baseball uniform —or a torn housecoat. And no makeup.

Today’s ImproveMINT

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