What is Leadership Theater?

Leadership Theater, and the ‘psycho-dramatic effect’, was pioneered by renowned psychologist Dr. Jacob Moreno, a student of Dr. Sigmund Freud. Dr. Moreno determined that theater produces a profound, three-dimensional impact upon human beings that anchors behaviors far deeper than one-dimensional, intellectual learning. Dr. Moreno also determined that when the audience participates in the theatrical event, the learning becomes even more deeply anchored, and inspires audience members to create powerful, sustainable changes, both in themselves and in their environments.

Leadership Masters first harnessed the power of Leadership Theater in 2004 with the creation of “The Shackleton Experience”. Set as a 1921 press conference, audience members portray the international journalists who ask the questions of the heroic polar explorer. In “The Churchill Chronicles”, audience members portray various cabinet members of the British government during the early 1940’s, and in “The Mandela Architecture”, audience members take on different roles in each and every scene. The result is total immersion into the world of various extraordinary leaders, and the strategies and behaviors that made them great.

The elements of truly inspiring Leadership Theater are brilliant writing, equally brilliant acting, music, visual elements, and learning ‘blocks’. The learning blocks are breaks between the theatrical scenes, where audience students translate what they are experiencing on an emotional level into practical strategies for sustainable change. According to Dr. Randy Petzel of the US Government “This is the most powerful learning that I have seen in over twenty years”. And according to Kevin Wilde, CLO of General Mills: “It has been over three years, but not a week goes by where someone doesn’t stop me in the hallway and thank me for bringing ‘Shackleton’ to General Mills. Three years later, and they’re still talking about it.”

As the learning pendulum swings more toward virtual platforms and e-learning, Leadership Theater can create the necessary balance needed for high-impact experiential learning and human behavioral change. Tactics and strategies in business operations transfer easily to virtual platforms, but the business of developing people and creating inspiring and innovative environments is best suited to experiential learning. And experiential learning is at its most powerful when it takes the form of leadership theater.

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