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Thursday, May 16 • 11:15am - 12:15pm
Clowning for leadership development: Exploring the encounter between two seeming opposites

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Today’s ever-changing world requires leadership that provides a spontaneous, responsive, and resilient connection between people enabling them to thrive under uncertainty and jump into the unknown together (Laloux 2014, Rigby et al., 2016). Current leadership development initiatives however still largely maintain a traditional view on leadership (i.e., the individual leader as the organizer, planner, and controller), thereby running the risk of developing leaders that are ill- equipped to help their employees and organizations navigate continuous change and to stay in tune with larger societal realities. This workshop explores the encounter between two seeming opposites—clown theatre and leadership—with the aim of moving toward more contemporaneous, connected and aware leadership by paying attention to four core features of clown theatre. First, the clown’s innocence, transparency, and truthfulness (Berky & Barbre, 2000), can help leaders be more truthful with their own and others’ emotions and nurture deeper connection. Second, given that the clown only exists in the present (Johnstone, 2003), he/she enables leaders to flexibly engage with key challenges, unconditioned by past or future paths (Ashford & DeRue, 2012). Third, without his/her connection to the audience any performance of the clown is meaningless, flawed and/or fake, thereby making leaders aware of the importance of their inextricable interdependence with people and communities around them (DeRue & Ashford, 2010). Finally, much of the charisma of the clown is in his/her unavoidable confrontation with failure. This can teach leaders the value of more humble forms of leadership. Taken together, this workshop contributes to both clown theatre and leadership by a thought- provoking, productive confrontation of both figures.


Tina Davidson

Assistant Professor, Rotterdam School of Management
Tina Davidson (NL) Tina Davidson is an Assistant Professor at the Rotterdam School of Management. Her research interests center on the role of culture and diversity in key phenomena in organizational behavior such as voice behavior, leadership development, and followership. In studying... Read More →
avatar for Ralf Wetzel

Ralf Wetzel

Prof of Applied Arts, Vlerick Business School
Ralf Wetzel (NL) began his career as an electrician. He joined Vlerick Business School as a Professor of Organization and Management after extensive experience in management and organization research and after being a head of a joint research and consulting group in Switzerland. He... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 11:15am - 12:15pm BST
Studio 3 (G171) Grove, Middlesex University, The Burroughs, Hendon, London, NW4 4BT