What Leaders Can Learn From Ryan Seacrest

Posted 02.27.2012

The most interesting part of the Oscar telecast last night happened before the awards show started. E! Network red carpet host and king of all media Ryan Seacrest was in his usual position, asking the stars if they were excited and who they were wearing, when Sacha Baron Cohen arrived in a limo. You may remember Cohen best as Borat (or, in one of my favorites roles, as the French foil to Will Farrell’s NASCAR driver in “Talladega Nights”).

Anyway, Cohen was decked out in the garb of a dictator who was so reminiscent of Gaddafi that it was kind of creepy. He was there in character to promote his new movie, “The Dictator,” and his bit involved holding an urn that supposedly held the ashes of his buddy Kim Jong-Il because Kim wanted to be on the red carpet one last time.

Seacrest played along and in the process of the interview, Cohen dumped whatever was in the urn right down the front of the host’s black tux. As he was hauled away by security guards, he yelled, “Now when people ask who you are wearing, you can say Kim Jong-Il!”

So, I’m not here to debate whether that was funny or appropriate. I’m here to talk about what Seacrest did next. He looked befuddled for 10 or 15 seconds then calmly turned to the camera and acknowledged that he he looked like a mess. Another reporter handed him a towel and a handler passed him a lint roller. He made a light-hearted little joke about both and cut to commercial. When they came back, he was more or less cleaned up and onto his next interview with Antonio Banderas about the challenges of playing Puss ‘n Boots as a headliner vs. a character in “Shrek.”

You can argue about how much value Seacrest is adding to society, but you have to hand one thing to him: The guy keeps his composure no matter what happens. He’s almost literally always on stage. So are leaders.

If you’re always on stage, you have to be mentally and emotionally prepared for almost anything. It could be a jerk pouring Bisquick down the front of your suit or someone losing their cool in a meeting. What will you do when it happens? If you walk on stage with a clear picture of how you want to show up no matter what, you have a much better chance of throwing it to commercial and being ready to get on with the show when the unexpected happens.