One of the biggest changes in my life over the last couple of years is my transition from a follower to a leader. Not in that vague interpersonal kind of way, but in real and tangible ways. Just a couple of years ago I was the student sitting in classes. Now I'm the teacher planning and executing lesson plans. Not too long ago I was still a part of my college improv team, taking direction from the leadership there. Now I'm teaching and coaching old and new improvisers.
I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that I've learned more being a leader than a follower. I've learned more about US History in three years as a teacher (see my series on learning by teaching) than in four years as a student. I learned more about economics in three years as a blogger than in four years as a student. I learned more about comedy in my years at the Dirty South Improv Theater than I did in my four years at Mock Turtle Soup. But this is not just the experience of one person, it's supported by research.
Author Dan Pink points to three experiments where "subjects were more likely to come up with the answer on behalf of another person than for themselves; the farther away the other person was imagined to be, the more likely the participants were to come up with the correct answer." But here's the catch, I couldn't have done one without the other. My years of history and economics classes were vital to my current teaching. My years of improv workshops were vital to my current coaching. The transition between a player and a coach is tough, but let me assure you, it you want to be great, it's worth it.
This was cross-posted at the The College Improv Resource.