Charles Handy and Richard Olivier took us beyond the breach .....
So what was the over-riding theme that came across? Envisioning the future? Building the team? Finding the strategy? Communicating the strategy? Knowing your customers? No. The over-riding theme was: “Life is for living. Go find what you’re good at and do more of it for the sake of us all, please”. Or, as Aristotle put it way back when, “eudaimonia”.
So how was this theme communicated? Powerfully and by stealth.
When Charles Handy took to the stage, we knew what to expect and we were not disappointed. Charles used his new book The New Philanthropists, co-authored with his wife Elizabeth (Charles and Elizabeth pictured above) whose incredible photographs lead the narrative, to express his perception of the essence of great leadership. So what is that essence and who are these New Philanthropists?
“The secret to great leadership? It’s simple: 1. Know yourself. 2. Know and trust your people. 3. Know what you’re about and make sure your people know what you’re about,” advised Charles warmly, yet with a hint of irony. Irony, not because it isn’t true – it is. Rather because it’s one of those eternal truths that is “easier said than delivered”.
And Charles – what is he about? This is a question he had to ask himself when writing his autobiography. Aristotle had the answer apparently - “eudaimonia”. Translated by many as “happiness”, the true translation of this concept according to Charles is “creating happiness by doing what you’re best at for the good of others.” Makes sense to us.
On hearing the building fill with soulful applause, we turned to each other and asked. “How on Earth do you follow that?” Luckily the next speaker, Richard Olivier, founder of Mythodrama and author of Inspirational leadership, Henry V and the Muse of Fire, knew exactly how.
His passion may also have been ignited thanks to the video St Nicholas’s Hospice showed before setting him loose on us. The overwhelming message we received from this and our various conversations with The Hospice’s staff was: "HOSPICES ARE ABOUT CARING FOR THE LIVING.” Living, and how great leaders do work that makes them feel alive, is a theme Richard picked up on later.
Awesome. That’s one word you could use to describe Richard’s performance, Inspiring, magnetic, moving, memorable would be others. Using the plot and some of the Bard’s narrative from Henry V, not only did he take us to the breach once more, he took us beyond.
A former theatre director talking about leadership lessons from Shakespeare’s Henry V. He sent waves of energy, inspiration, charisma and wisdom crashing through the room. He was on fire.
He explained how before opening Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre with Henry V in 1997, he bought in a group of City leaders to do a workshop to analyse which parts were still relevant to leadership today. They concluded “all of it!” He then talked us through the play and its eternal wisdoms.
Picking up on Charles’ theme of “in the service of others” and the difference between inspiration and charisma, he talked about great leaders having the ability to reflect accurately back on their life and to sow the ‘Golden Seed’ Charles had talked about earlier (also known as The Mentor’s Nudge) within others. He talked about being fully alive and connected to your work and how to orient yourself towards the thing that brings you alive and then do it. He showed how Henry V did it and told us how he did it. He talked about vision being about quality not quantity. Mission being measurable but vision being about core inspirational values and he quoted Henry V again to illustrate the difference, tears filling his eyes (and most of the audience’s too).
He concluded that great leadership was about finding your inner sense of purpose and the inner conditions you need to produce inspired work. For him it’s working with wisdom stories and people interested in self-development. He has certainly found his niche.
What about us, what did we get out of it? The gift of humility – here were two masters at work, “spreading the word” and “getting it heard”. They did not simply appeal to the head. They reached out to the heart using words, pictures and performance to captivate us all. As Richard put it “Some people see the light. Some people need to feel the heat”. Our light bulbs were switched on and our internal fires were well and truly stoked. As Mentor Mike Pegg regularly reminds us “it’s not just about the words – it’s about how they’re used to engage the other senses to achieve a goal”.
Consider us well and truly nudged and on fire…