Academic Development
Leadership through Literature and Theatre
The idea is to take serious works of fiction, treat them through plays which are presented by students and examine them in depth.

How does serious fiction help us understand leadership? The answer is simple but extraordinarily powerful. Serious fiction gives us a unique, inside view of leadership. In real life, most people see the leaders of their organizations only occasionally and get only fleeting glimpses of what these leaders are thinking and feeling. Even interviews with executives have their limits. Executives say only so much even when they want to be candid: sensitivities have to be observed, memory fades and sometimes distorts and successes crowd out failure.

In contrast, serious literature offers a view from the inside. It opens doors to the world rarely seen – except on occasion by leaders, spouses and closest friends. It lets us watch leaders as they think, worry, hope, hesitate, commit, exult, regret and reflect. We see their characters tested, reshaped, strengthened or weakened. The students are exposed to some serious literature and are asked to present it as a play. This process draws them into leaders' worlds, put them in their shoes and lets them share their experience.

This is not a course in literary criticism, and students aren't learning for the 'right' interpretation of these works. In the best stories, literature and life converge. The characters come across as real people, not puppets or specimens in lab dishes. This can broaden our view of leadership by showing us leaders in a wide range of circumstances. It also deepens our understanding by revealing what they are thinking and feeling. And, as we look closely at these men and women, we confront a series of challenging questions – about the individuals in the stories and about ourselves. By grappling with questions of character and skills, men and women can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and of ways to lead more effectively by looking at themselves in the mirror of compelling fictional characters.

Unfortunately, much fiction about business executives presents them as one-dimensional people, dominated or ruined by pursuit of wealth and power. The stories used are rounded, complex pictures of not only business leaders but leaders in other walks of life, or individuals whose challenges, particularly in psychological or emotional terms, parallel those of leaders. Some of the individuals that are examined may not be leaders in the conventional sense, but all of them help us understand the whole role of self-knowledge in leadership.

The process of preparing and presenting the play and the experience of directing, scripting, acting develop students in soft skills like team work, creativity, improvisations and presence of mind.

In the same spirit, Prof. Swar Kranti, Faculty - HR, WeSchool was one of the key note speakers at the ‘Worldly Leadership’ Summit at The Leadership Trust in UK on 22-23 September 2009. Her topic was ‘Discovering Leadership Meanings from the Indian Melange’. The Summit examined a wide and dispersed range of leadership wisdoms from across the world that could be relevant today in a global context. The Summit was for business, business education, government and NGO leaders to meet together to produce collaborative action for a sustainable world.
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