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«Rehearsing Tomorrow’s Leaders - The Potential of Mythodrama Richard Olivier & Dr Julie Verity page 1 Rehearsing Tomorrow’s Leaders - the ...»

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What we try to do through mythodrama is to encourage people to acquire active self-awareness so that, as a leader, they are able to better manage behaviors in themselves and others. With this foundation, a leader should be able to demonstrate the openness, courage and compassion needed to build trusting and positive relationships inside and outside the organization.

Developing Presence

The most famous scene in ‘Henry V’ is the speech the king makes before the Battle of Agincourt. ‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…’, these are powerful words, beautifully constructed and designed to rally followers to invest a last heroic effort in the cause. The lesson, however, goes beyond the words.

Having presence and authority in leadership is the result of a more complex bundle of skills, including hearing, seeing, touching, gaining trust and being open with followers.

It’s about understanding people, especially those you have to lead, and showing empathy. Before making the speech, Henry has wandered the English camp in disguise, listening to what the ordinary troops are thinking and feeling. Ask any manager if they listen and they will say of course they do but their position as a manager means that the troops may not honestly open up as to what they really think and feel.

Having learnt about the fears and uncertainties of his troops, Henry is able to deliver a speech that addresses them honestly. He doesn‘t, for instance, say that it‘s all going to be alright and nobody is going to die. It would be a lie that no one would believe. Instead he says, ‘For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.’ In other words, we are all in this together, we stand side-by-side. By saying this, everyone becomes a king for this fight against the odds. What Henry does is raise everyone up to his level of importance.

He goes on : ‘And gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves accursed they were not here and hold their manhoods’ cheap while any speaks that fought with us upon St Crispin’s day’. To put it another Strategic Partnership Programmes Developing World Class Leaders

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way, you will be the envy of others who were unlucky enough not to be here. Not that anyone standing in a muddy field and contemplating the prospect of being slaughtered would think of themselves as lucky but Henry makes it seem so by projecting what the survivors will feel in the future. He is giving them a future, a positive picture that takes them beyond the fight they must face tomorrow and, that future is worth going toward.

Having faced the leader’s self doubt, learnt how to sense and feel the mood of the led, knowing how to put into words a picture of the future and raise others to the level of kings - above their own fears, this is the wisdom Henry shares with us and we can use to practice the art of authentic leadership.

Turning Battlefields into Gardens Against all odds, Henry is victorious at the Battle of Agincourt. Having won the war, he must now win the peace. It is time for Henry to show us a new face of leadership.

In modern times, Winston Churchill offers us an instructive example. Although a charismatic and inspirational war leader, when it came to peacetime, he had no vision to offer the electorate who chose a decidedly uncharismatic leader, Clement Attlee, instead. But what Attlee lacked in charisma, he more than made up for in vision, the promise of a better future in the shape of the ‘welfare state‘.

In Henry’s case, he recognizes the need for change in order to meet the new challenge of peacetime and he turns from warrior into lover to woo Katherine, the daughter of the King and Queen of France. No matter how uncomfortable this new role is, Henry knows he must take it on in order to turn his victory at Agincourt into something lasting and substantial. His goal is to secure marriage to Katherine to cement the union of England and France.

One of the oldest and most persistent metaphors for business is the military one – fighting against the odds, struggling to achieve targets, battling with the competition. It is a picture that resonates strongly, it is popular and easily understood – but it is not sustainable or appropriate as the only way for organizations to be. Different contexts require different modus operandi. There are strategic alternatives. There are times when the leader needs to tend the health of the organization, repair bridges with the outside world, nurture and develop talent, stimulate new ideas to take hold and grow.

In the play, it is the ‘garden’ of France that Henry must now turn his attention to. The battle is over, he has to put aside his armour and take on a new mantel of leadership that is not based on being the warrior. He must turn the battlefield into a garden.

Shakespeare’s story of Henry as a peacemaker provides powerful material for our workshops. It allows us to explore the behaviors behind this face of leadership and to rehearse the skill of being a leader who can restore organizational health and take responsibility for the future wellbeing and sustainability of the business.

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Transforming Business Leadership Authentic leaders are ordinary people able to draw on extraordinary talents. They are prepared to bring themselves to work, to stand up for what is important, and to adapt appropriately to meet new situations.

These leaders are emotionally intelligent and self-aware, knowing their own strengths and limitations. They develop others, who choose to follow them not because they have to, but because they want to. They sustain their people and their culture in an ethical manner, building a platform for long-term success and high-impact performance. They inspire consistently, tell compelling stories, lead others through complex problems to collaborative decisions and are committed to leaving the world a better place.

Shakespeare’s great mythical leaders provide a means to study the traits of authenticity. As one of the keenest observers of human behaviour, the combinations of characters and situations Shakespeare created in his plays, make for enduringly relevant and rich case studies about leaders and followers. Mix metaphor with drama as a teaching and rehearsal intervention and the learning experience is powerful and effective.

In a world where change is everyday reality, where leadership needs to be widely dispersed through the organisation, where imagination, creativity and commitment are what you need employees to bring to work everyday, there is great value in taking this different approach to leadership education.


Olivier Mythodrama is a team of theatre-trained consultants dedicated to the idea of applying the skills and insights of theatre, psychology, philosophy and the arts to the development of authentic leaders in organizations across all sectors, public and private, commercial and not-for-profit. The founder, Richard Olivier, son of Sir Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright, has been a leading theatre director for over ten years and directed ‘Henry V’ for the opening of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London in 1997. He has worked extensively in the fields of organizational and personal development.

Olivier Mythodrama was born out of Richard’s work with ‘Henry V’ for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and his collaboration with like-minded and creative individuals who helped to shape the thinking behind - and subsequent formation of - the company. These include Nicholas Janni, renowned theatre director, Ben Walden a member of the inaugural company at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, William Ayot a poet and playwright and Michael Boyle, a member of the European Society for Communicative Psychotherapy.

Olivier Mythodrama was created in 2001 and now presents learning interventions around the world.

Strategic Partnership Programmes Developing World Class Leaders

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