Dancing Lessons for Leaders: Experiencing the Artistic Mindset
Organizational Aesthetics Cover Issue Vol. 5(1)


arts-based leadership development
experiential learning
behaviour change
ensemble approach
organizational performance

How to Cite

PowellM., & GiffordJ. (2015). Dancing Lessons for Leaders: Experiencing the Artistic Mindset. Organizational Aesthetics, 5(1), 131-149. Retrieved from https://oa.journals.publicknowledgeproject.org/index.php/oa/article/view/59


An account of a four-year arts-based leadership development programme conducted at a leading UK business school on behalf of a major oil and gas exploration company, with special focus on the dance-related aspects of the programme. The programme, designed and led by Dr Mark Powell, one of the authors of the article, aimed to change the behaviour and mindset of project managers responsible for multi-million-pound capital projects, using experiential learning to encourage a more flexible, reactive approach to highly complex scenarios and a more collaborative, "ensemble" approach to working with outside partners - governments, project partners, contractors and others - leading to improved organizational performance. Delegates worked with jazz musicians, ballroom dancers, a classical conductor and choral group, an ex-Royal Shakespeare Company director, poets, artists and psychologists, amongst others. The dance-related sessions, facilitated by Dr Mark Powell, himself a championship-winning ballroom dancer and a management consultant, are described in detail. The programme set out to give delegates a physical experience of the performing arts by means of intimately experienced demonstrations by artists and simple related exercises. The article gives feedback and comments on the programme's outcomes drawn from interviews conducted by the authors with delegates and with the client executives responsible for commissioning and directing the programme.