Leading a meeting and playing chess are strategically similar

Would you like to lead a meeting as strategically as Beth Harmon plays chess?

Beth Harmon skillfully shows us that chess can be ‘almost sexy’. Mind you, those clothes, with that haircut, and Beth’s unique looks sure helped. Men and women alike adored her. Imagine if these strategies were emulated when you lead a meeting.

Is it even possible that ‘leading a meeting’ can be ‘almost sexy’ too? Well, yes it is, because I’ve witnessed it, and it’s mesmerising. It left me thinking…. “How did he do that?”

It’s not just the physical attributes we see in a person, it’s their presence that gets noticed the most. A confident speaker, chairperson, or even chess player has a captivating presence. They have confidence that oozes from all pores of their being. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, or anything in between, your confidence comes from within. And the confidence comes with the knowledge of the moves allowed whilst adhering to the rules.

Most times people who have a presence have practised and practised their craft over and over again. Remember this scene from The Queens Gambit?


Scene from Episode #3 — “Doubled Pawns”

Alma (mum) and Beth are in the hotel room. Alma is watching TV while Beth studies the chessboard

Alma — “What are you doing?”

Beth — “Looking for weaknesses in my play.”

Alma — “….and?”

Beth — “They’re aren’t any.”

Alma — “Good girl.”


If you knew as much about leading a meeting as Beth Harmon does about chess, then your meetings would probably be ‘almost sexy’ too.

Just as a chess game has a rhythm and a pace, so do meetings. The leader sets the rhythm. Everyone else in the meeting takes their timing and rhythm from the leader. The leader is strategic, saying the right things, at the right time, in the right way.

The team is important and they all contribute to the meeting in different ways. Some speak, some don’t, and some may need some encouragement. The leader is like the fuel in your car. No fuel, no go.

How do you make your role as a leader effective, and ‘almost sexy’? Imagine chairing a meeting, and your ‘moves’ are spoken about like this…..


One of the twins chats to Beth after she played brilliantly…..again

Matt (or was it Mike?) — “When he brought out his rook, then took out that pawn, I thought you were done for. I should’ve known better.”

Beth — “Yes. You should have.”


Bamm!! She had some smart moves in her game because she largely knew beforehand what they were going to be. As a leader of a meeting, you can gain this insight too, by learning the strategies.

Like Beth, good leaders tune into everything that’s happening around them. They understand the body language of the participants, they consider comments from all participants, whatever their position, the nuances of who’s saying what, why they’re saying it, where it fits and most importantly — the ‘SO WHAT’. It’s called reading the meeting.

I spoke about witnessing a brilliant chairperson earlier.

I’ve seen this brilliant chairperson manage 50 volatile stakeholders with varying viewpoints, to peaceful and amicable decisions.

I’ve seen this brilliant chairperson assist the group to reword a motion so that a decision could be made that night. This meant they could progress on the matter straight away, instead of waiting for the next AGM in 12 months’ time.

I’ve seen this brilliant chairperson be thanked by one of the stakeholders for handling the motions in a professional, calm, and organised manner where everyone got to have their say.

It’s often said that an excellent chess player knows up to 9 moves beforehand if they’ve lost or won the game. It’s that strategic.

It’s the same when you lead a meeting well. If the meeting has a clear direction, and the leader knows how to read the meeting, they’ll have a good idea of what the outcomes will be long before the fat lady sings.

A good chairperson will move things along or slow things down, depending on the energy of the meeting and the direction it needs to go to achieve the required outcomes. Now and then they’ll ask a question to get to the nub of an issue.

They’ll keep their foot on the pedal and provide stability. Leaders with presence have a “knowing” about this. Emerging leaders often wonder how they do it.

Who was it that mesmerised me? It was David Julian Price, an exceptional chairperson. You may say I’m biased as he’s my husband, and of course, that is partially true.

The biggest difference between chess and chairing a meeting is that with chess, you aim to win.

The opposite is true when leading a meeting well. An effective, strategic leader will be considerate of what is best for the greater good for the greatest number, known as the 3GN way…. Singing to the tune of…. “Come Together”.

On the flip side, a controlling chair will sing …”My Way”, as they’re often pushing their own agenda.

It is possible to run a meeting where all views are heard and dealt with, so discussion is fair, firm and focused. Resulting in well-run meetings where considered decisions are made, as the leader is efficient, effective and equitable.

These skills can be learned. Just as Beth Harmon practised her chess moves to be at the top of her game, you too can master how to lead a meeting effectively by learning the moves, then practising them. Over and over again.

Denise Rose Price

The Talent Behind the Talent

At David Julian Price Consulting

Here’s a great place to start learning the right moves…


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