Business person leaping

Embodied decision-making?

The University of Oxford has been using the humanities for leadership training – mostly for leaders in business. Acting and singing are two humanities featured in their programme but what about movement or dance? I draw-up a two day course based upon my movement practice of contact improvisation. [Research by Fiona Bennett]

The Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme (OSLP) organise week-long courses for senior business leaders looking to polish their leadership skills. While parts of it are business-related, many are more experiential and experimental – drawing on the arts/humanities.

Thinking through doing

One example of the OSLP courses involved a Shakespearean ‘forum theatre’ workshop. Another, singing in a choir.

The video below gives you a flavour of it – very Oxford!

Peter Hanke is a conductor who lead one of the OSLP courses. In the video below, Peter conducts a choir of business leaders, making the intellectual link between music – and ‘acting music’ through conducting, and leadership.


Actor Richard Olivier (son of Laurence Olivier) ran a OSLP session on Mythodrama. In this video, Richard Olivier says his role is to raise questions, rather than provide answers.

Thinking with the whole body

Many senior business leaders have read all the books about leadership and they are looking for new approaches – ones which might take them out of their comfort zones. A course using movement/dance and contact improvisation should:

  • Help participants “dance with the unknown” in their professional and private lives;
  • Push them – through dance – to be more intuitive, more present, better at relating, and ‘get out of their heads into their bodies’. ie embodiment;
  • Promote improvisation as a tool for moving forward – in movement and indeed decision making too. There’s no dance ‘steps’ to learn here – it’s improvised;
  • Increase appreciation of dance as a practice, and one which is worthwhile;
  • Be challenging but fun, and enjoyable! Oh yes, and be suitable for people’s fitness and activity levels.

There is a particular aspect of dance which business leaders can related to: leading and following. Who takes what role; how can it change; and isn’t it a dialogue anyhow? Surprisingly perhaps, following can involve leadership too. This is something which we can dance – embody – rather than just talking about it. We can know it and feel it too.

Embodied leadership?

With the above thoughts in mind, I designed a weekend course using contact improvisation for business leaders and the like. This is draft programme (PDF) which needs elaboration.

One final question: what shall we call this course: ‘Leadership through dance’ ,’Embodied decision-making’ or ‘Embodied leadership’?


Thank-you to Fiona Bennett for suggesting this idea and her research.

Photo: Business person leaping by Mish Sukharev (Revtank Outtakes), October 21, 2010. Creative Commons Lisence Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) see:

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