The Mask & the Leader

Executive Program on Responsible Leadership (Two-day seminar)

The rationale to use Theatre for Leadership education is very simple: Theatre provides the opportunity to put on stage certain relational situations that are typical in corporate life. On stage, the individuals involved (managers and co-workers) “live” again and with heightened clarity critical situations that they experience in their daily work life. This re-enactment enables the actors to observe those situations from a new point of view, and to “live” them in a completely different way. The goal of the re-enactment is to allow participants to ‘free’ themselves from the mental models that normally operate in the corporate working environment, to better understand and ultimately, improve them through their moral imagination, in a playful and amusing modality.

The main tool participants will employ in order to observe, analyze and create a narrative about the mechanisms of day-to-day organisational relationships will be the Mask: the use of the various masks of the Commedia dell’Arte enables us to ‘polarize’ the characters and release vocal and physical expressive forms often unknown – or forgotten.

The workshop is jointly lead by two types of coach, who integrate their competencies:

  • Two professional Actors­­, experts in the Commedia dell’Arte  and in the use and language of the Mask; and 
  • A Business Ethicist,  expert in management decision-making and in improving relationships among organisational stakeholders.

The participants are engaged both as authors and as actors.  First, they write the draft plot or scenario (“canovaccio”) that they will put on stage. Then, they play as actors to enact the scenario. In  brief stage performances they develop both their ability to be creative, and their capacity to analyze relational situations. Moreover, the whole workshop provides an amazing teamwork experience, where participants are challenged to go beyond their everyday mental models and frameworks to identify and address work-related issues practising creative and responsible leadership.

Participants will learn how, paradoxically, putting on the Mask provides a powerful way to express their true self and become an effective and responsible Leader, unbounded from the organizational script or dominant logic. Additionally, lessons learned while fully engaged in mask-play draw upon intuitional and subconscious or preconscious knowledge, which might otherwise remain inaccessible to the individual player’s rational mind. Thus, the mask provides both a magnifying glass or amplifier for the individual’s inner states, and – when used collectively – a tool for improved understanding of situational relationships within the group.

Learn More

The idea to use Commedia dell'Arte to promote Responsible Leadership was inspired by Ed Freeman's award-winning MBA course on "Leadership & Theatre" at the Darden School of Business. Together with Ed, Simone and Leonardo de Colle further explored this idea in their article "Practicing Human Dignity: Ethical Lessons from Commedia dell’Arte and Theater" published in 2017 in the Journal of Business Ethics (read).

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