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Management school meets Macbeth

Richard Olivier (left) and his late father.
Richard Olivier (left) and his late father.

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(CNN) -- Many management advisers give theatrical performances, but what of those in theater who give advice to management?

Richard Olivier, director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and son of stage and screen legend Sir Laurence Olivier, is one of these.

His father was celebrated for breathing life into William Shakespeare's characters, now his 40-year old son is promoting the same figures to inspire leadership in executives.

"We are aiming to develop more authentic leaders and Shakespeare's characters are incredibly multi-faceted," Olivier told CNN.

"What we try and teach people through the plays is that you too need to show your humanity in order to get people to follow you."

Olivier believes stories motivate people rather than monetary bonuses, and that if workers are part of an exciting story they will tend to work harder.

Comedy, history, tragedy and poetry are fodder for this unconventional methodology.

Companies such as Nokia, Rolls-Royce, Shell and Vodaphone have all used workshops run by Olivier Mythodrama Associates, according to the Web site.

Olivier thumbs through Julius Caesar for tips on emotional intelligence and "how to avoid getting stabbed in the back at work."

He says Hamlet teaches executives to "manage at the edge of chaos", or how to avoid going mad at work.

Bosses can learn the leadership secrets of Henry V, he says, whereas the play The Tempest helps office workers know what to do " when everyone feels shipwrecked."

On the course, theater skills, psychology and organizational development are all rehearsed by the executive teams and role-play is used to act out management situations.

"I think the arts have a lot to teach us about corporate problems, people now realize that there are no certainties in corporate life," says Rod Emerson of Templeton College, Oxford University.

"We need new perspectives, new ways of tackling corporate problems that aren't necessarily scientific as we might hope."

Olivier is convinced that the plays were written with executive power and public life in mind.

"The Globe Theatre is right opposite the city of London, it is right along from the center of business and law in his time," says Olivier.

"He (Shakespeare) put the building here to start the conversation with leaders and we know the leaders of the time came and saw the plays."


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