Relational Leadership Lab

International Leadership Association Conference
Barcelona, Spain
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Info and Registration

Changing our thinking requires new tools for thinking. This leadership lab is a physical exploration in which we will together design 21st century leadership. Our aim is to enable insights into the dynamics of collective mindfulness, and the interplay between individual actions and the interdependent networked processes of leadership. To do so, the lab will utilize design thinking and inquiry methods —physical theater improvisation and Laban Movement Analysis. The presenters utilized these methods in their doctoral research to study change, and have helped engineers, and scientists to envision ways to address complex system problems (von Emmel, 2005, Amend, 2015).

Detailed Abstract

This workshop enables a physical exploration into the dynamics between individual behavioral change and the social processes and structures of leadership in action. Participants will experience inquiry methods utilized in the workshop facilitators’ doctoral research (von Emmel, 2005), and organizational change practices (von Emmel, 2009, Amend, 2015).

The Problem and Need:

The workshop will start with a brief overview of the challenges. Socially and historically shaped by dominant societies, learning and change methods have embedded Eurocentric assumptions about knowledge and reality that are problematic for enabling transformation in an interdependent world (von Emmel, 2005). Individualism, Cartesianism, and verbocentrism are a few of these challenges. A resulting problem of individualism, which leadership scholars have described, is conflating the concepts of a leader with leadership, and secondly, over-investing in changing individual behavior, leader development, without coordinating individuals’ development with the development of the collective processes, aesthetics and structures of leadership. The two, leader behavior and leadership processes, work hand in hand. An individual’s actions are shaped by social-historical-ecological processes in play (eg. values, aesthetics, and language), and vice versa. Individuals perform change through their use of self.

Last year, the ILA’s conference theme of Mindful Leadership and the publication of Embodiment and Leadership advanced changes in thinking about leadership through new tools for thinking. This workshop eagerly follows in this movement. Approaches which utilizes physical processes such as mindful stillness, breathing, sensory perception, and dynamic movement in time and space, can enable understandings of leadership that are unbounded by individualism, Cartesianism and verbocentrism.

Learning Objectives:
• To co-create our perception of a leader and leadership as coupled social historical embodied processes
• To increase awareness of the dynamics of leaders and leadership through exploring various facilitation movements and tracking perception, feelings, and behavior among all the participants
• To develop awareness of the interaction between system levels: individual, interpersonal, collective and environment
• To be introduced to physical theater improvisation and Laban Movement Analysis as inquiry methods

Workshop Activities:

In this workshop, participants will be in lively interaction with each other. After a brief theoretical overview, participants will be invited to do simple practices and techniques from physical theater improvisation, practiced across continents in subcultures in Tokyo, Berlin, and San Francisco, and Laban Movement Analysis, a method and language for describing, visualizing, and interpreting human movement. In action-reflection cycles, we will move between doing interactive physical experiences, and then reflect verbally in pairs, trios and large group conversations.