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Theatrics of Leadership

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					                           Scene 17 - Theatrics of Leadership
                          From Book, Theatrics of Capitalism
                                 David M. Boje, Ph.D.
                                    January 8, 2001

       Leadership is theatre. Leaders perform various character roles and do the
       tasks of plot designers, producers, scriptwriters and directors in spectacles
       of power. Each situation is a scene with its own stage, spectators, and
       dialog to master. Some situations call forth a more heroic performance,
       others a more tragic, comedic, or ironic one. In part I, of this chapter, we
       apply Aristotle‟s poetic elements of theatre to leadership; part II explores
       the role of leadership in not only spectacle, but carnival, and festival; and
       in part III, we look at ways to training leaders using lessons form theatre.

Introduction

        The network of theatrical performances of an organization is something I have
called Tamara (Boje, 1995). Workers, managers, executives, staff, customers, and
vendors constitute fragmented, distributed network of wandering audiences that make
choices about which microstages to exit and enter. The fragmenting audiences, as they
split and diffuse, encounter simultaneous performances of spectacle, carnival, and
festival. No actor can is present in all scenes or able to participates on all the stages. The
Tamara network of stages of performance is what Foucault (1979) called “carcereal,” a
network of disciplinary stages within which there is leadership, direction, coordination, or
its imitation.

       We are immersed in a Tamara-like network of theatrics that is being continually
constructed and reconstructed as our characters morph and pass from one plot to another.
The intersecting gaze of the Tamara is designed into the seating, the class structure of
balcony, front and lodge seating; it is designed into the crisscrossing gaze of video
conferencing; it can also be a more egalitarian architecture. The scenery, the desks,
mahogany paneling, even people; all are symbols of power on stage.

“Great demonstrations and rallies in the urban centers of the United States make for
splendid theater” (Bookchin, 1983). The carnival of resistance is dialectic to spectacles of
leadership.

         Collectively these wandering spectators and actors construct the metascript of the
organization and society. Metascript is mostly an unwritten manuscript, and leaders work
in the modern day scriptorium, their office a writing room where script is produced.
Leaders are persons who write scripts, but not on parchment. Rather, the metascript is
constructed out of fragments of dialog, bits of conversation, stories, and scenarios; much
of it is oral. The metascript changes from one generation, one administration, and one
venture to the next.




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                         Part I: The Septet Elements of Theatre

Leaders perform all seven dramaturgical elements (revisit Scene 7 “Enron & Septet”).

   1. Plots – Aristotle (350 BCE) believed plot to be the most important element; plot
      is a combination of events; the incidents are selected to arouse pity and fear in the
      spectators (e.g. seeing the suffering by some deed of horror), other times
      amusement or irony; In comedy, the bitterest enemies walk off good friends at the
      end of their conflict.
   2. Characters – character is "what makes us ascribe certain moral qualities to the
      agents (actors)" (1450a: 5, p. 231). Characters reveal the moral purpose of the
      agents, i.e. the sort of thing they seek or avoid (1450b: 5, p. 232). Moral purpose
      of the character is revealed by what they say or do on stage (1453: 19, p. 242)
   3. Themes – Themes (or thought) is shown in all the characters say and do in
      proving or disproving some particular point, or enunciating some universal
      proposition.
   4. Dialogs – Dialog (or diction) is the verbal and non-verbal exchanges among
      characters. This is resource to express character, plot, and theme.
   5. Rhythms - Rhythms can be fast or slow, repetitive or chaotic, gentle or harsh. I.e.
      The leader character can be a workaholic making everyone work at fast and harsh
      pace. The rhythm can slow down or build up to give emphasis.
   6. Frames - For Aristotle, the spectators have "frames of mind" that characters and
      plots seek to persuade through dialog and rhythm. For Burke (1937) Frame is an
      ideological worldview, what we call grand narratives. For Burke the Frames of
      Acceptance (tragedy or comedy) and Frames of Rejection (grotesque or
      burlesque) are in dialectic interaction.
   7. Spectacles - Aristotle thought spectacle, though an attraction, to be the least
      artistic of all the parts, requiring extraneous aid (1450b: 15, p. 232 & p. 240); it is
      the stage appearance of the actor; what the costumier does; pity and fear may be
      aroused by spectacle, but better to arouse these emotions in the spectators by the
      plot, the incidents of the play (1453, 13, p. 239). Here we have looked at more
      contemporary spectacles (concentrated, diffuse, integrated, and mega).

Since Aristotle's day, leadership has become more spectacle than plot. Leadership and
organization are theatre. I am not talking here of Broadway theatre (though this is not
independent of capitalism). Rather, I am talking of the theatrics of leadership diffused
throughout capitalism.

There are two aspects of leadership is theatre. First, there are times when the leader is the
star performer, stepping eagerly into the spotlight. Second, are those other times when
the leader just scripts the roles others will play, and does not enter the front stage at all.



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Back stage leaders rehearse their lines, coach others in their lines, edit the organizational
script, and review previous performances. Between the front and the back stage is the
corridor of power. Few are privileged to see what goes on there. Next, we explore each
of Aristotle‟s poetics using Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999) as a case
example.

Plot - The plot of Star Wars Episode 1 is more than just a war between the Trade
Federation and a Galactic Republic planet, Naboo or a dispute over the taxation of trade
routes to outlaying star systems. The main plot is the hero‟s journey in the struggle to
resist evil. There are several heroic characters (Anikan Skywalker winning the pod race
and taking the first step on his journey to become Darth Vader; Obi-Wan-Kenobi
defeating Darth Maul (Dark Lord of the Sith) ; Queen Amidala outwitting the Galactic
Republic Senate, out-foxing the Evil Emperor, and crafting a strategy to defeat the Trade
Federation‟s robot army (she forms an alliance with the Gongan military). There are
several subplots. First, Senator Palpatine of the Galactic Federation is plotting to become
Chancellor of the Senate and is stalemating the current Chancellor Valorum with
bureaucratic maneuvers making him appear powerless during the Trade Federation War
and conquest of Naboo. Second, Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn is going to free the slave
Anikin Skywalker, defy the Council of Jedi by taking him on as an apprentice, and meet
his death at the hands of the Seith apprentice of the Evil Emperor.

Characters – Episode 1 presents a number of characters that are familiar in Episodes IV,
V, and VI. Each character has a moral purpose. For example, we see a young Obi-Wan-
Kenobi as an apprentice to the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn; the scheming senator Palpatine
becomes the Evil Emperor; Jedi Knights are the guardians of peace and justice in the
galaxy; Anikin Skywalker is Darth Vader as a boy and we see his moral purpose begin to
unfold. For example, in one scene the shadow of Anikin is cast in the outline of Darth
Vader, upon a large boulder. Jar Jar Binks plays the comic character, a Gungan, who
helps the Jedi and Queen Amidala on their heroic journeys; ultimately Jar Jar Binks
becomes a hero, like the Lion in Wizard of Oz, he finds his courage. Several characters
have what Aristotle terms tragic flaws that will seal their fate in this or subsequent
episodes. Notably, Qui-Gon Jinn defies the warnings of the Jedi Council, and looses his
battle with the Evil Emperor‟s apprentice. We as spectators pity the tragic fate of Qui-
Gon Jinn as he is defeated and killed by Darth Maul. Anikin Skywalker has the tragic
flaw of “fear,” as discovered by Yoda and other Jedi Council members. “Fear is my ally”
– Darth Maul. “Fear leads to anger, which leads to hate,” says Yoda, and this is the path
to the dark side. The tragic flaw is identified in Episode 1 and fulfilled in the succeeded
episodes of Star Wars.

Theme – The theme of the Star Wars Episode is the clash of good versus evil, the life
affirming versus the dark side of the force. The universal proposition is “may the force be
with you.” There are others, such as “your focus determines your reality.” Finally, there
is a theme of apprenticeship running through the episodes.

Dialog – The dialog is the expression of character, theme, and plot. The dialog among
characters is a mix of bureaucratic, state, military, and mythical discourses. An example



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of dialog is when Queen Amadella replies to Senator Palpatine (the Evil Emperor). The
scene expresses the Machiavellian plot of Senator Palpatine, and the resistance by Queen
Amidala:

       PALPATINE : ...the Republic is not what it once was. The Senate is full of
       greedy, squabbling delegates who are only looking out for themselves and their
       home sytems. There is no interest in the common good...no civility, only
       politics...its disgusting. I must be frank, Your Majesty, there is little chance the
       Senate will act on the invasion.

       AMIDALA : Chancellor Valorum seems to think there is hope.

       PALPATINE : If I may say so, Your Majesty, the Chancellor has little real
       power...he is mired down by baseless accusations of corruption. A manufactured
       scandal surrounds him. The bureaucrats are in charge now.

       AMIDALA : What options do we have?

       PALPATINE : Our best choice would be to push for the election of a stronger
       Supreme Chancellor. One who will take control of the bureaucrats, enforces the
       laws, and give us justice. You could call for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor
       Valorum.

       AMIDALA : He has been our strongest supporter. Is there any other way?

       PALPATINE : Our only other choice would to be to submit a plea to the courts...

       AMIDALA : There's no time for that. The courts take even longer to decide
       things than the Senate. Our people are dying, Senator...more and more each day.
       We must do something quickly to stop the Federation.

       PALPATINE : To be realistic, Your Highness, I'd say we're going to have to
       accept Federation control for the time being.

       AMIDALA : This is something I cannot do…

       AMIDALA: My place is with my people. Senator, this is your arena. I feel I must
       return to mine. I have decided to go back to Naboo.

There are several dialogic arenas of power in this episode. First, there is the bureaucratic
arena of power, the Machiavellian maneuvers by Senator Palpatine to unseat Supreme
Chancellor Valorum. Second, there is the military arena, the dialog of war between the
Jedi and the Trade federation; the dialog between the robot military hierarchy and the
Viceroy of the Trade Federation; the dialog between Queen Amidala and the leader of the
Gungan; the dialog between the Evil Emperor and the Viceroy; the Jedi Council dialog
with the Jedi knight; the dialog between the slave owner merchant and the Jedi.



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Rhythm – The rhythm of the episode is the ups and downs, successes and setbacks as
young Anikin, Queen Amidala and their Jedi face the challenges of Republic
bureaucracy, a change in Supreme Chancellor to control the senate, the imperial conquest
of the planet Naboo by the Trade Federation, the battle between the dark and Jedi sides of
the Force.

Frames – The ideological frames of Empire (machiavellian leadership with robotic
armies), Queen Amidala‟s world of Naboo and her alliance with Gongan military
underworld (premodern leaders in a modern world), and the Jedi knights (bridge of
modern and premodern) are in contest.

Spectacle – The trilogy of spectacle, carnival and festival is played out in the poetics of
Star Wars. First, there is the grand spectacle ending, a parade of the victory Gongan
military on the planet Naboo, with their leader receiving his trophy from Queen Amidala.
The scenes of war and the floating seats of the Republic Senate are spectacles. Part
spectacle and part festival is the Boonta Eve Pod race, which is also sale promotion for
the video game version. Sebulba, a podracer pilot also from Tatooine, challenges Anakin
to a great desert pod race in this festive occasion.

Carnivals of resistance to spectacle are played out in at least five areas. First, Qui-Gon
Jinn resists the Jedi Council in taking Anikin as his apprentice. Second, the comic
Gungan character resists his state/military. Third, Queen Amidala resists the Republic
Senate by calling for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum (a move calculated
by the Evil Emperor/Senator Palpatine.

       AMIDALA : (angrily) I will not defer...I have come before you to resolve this
       attack on our sovereignty now. I was not elected to watch my people suffer and
       die while you discuss this invasion in a committee. If this body is not capable of
       action, I suggest new leadership is needed. I move for a "vote of no
       confidence"...in Chancellor Valorum's leadership.

       VALORUM : What?...No!

She also resists Senator Palatine by returning to her planet to strike an alliance with Boss
Nass, leader of Gungan. Fourth, Anikin resists his enslavement on the planet of Tatooine
by Watto the Toydarian, a junk parts owner; Anikin the Jedi win the money necessary to
repair their spacecraft. Anikin also resists Qui-Gon Jinn by going out to do battle in
space. Fifth, Obi-Wan-Kenobi resists the preferences of Yoda and the Jedi Council by
taking Anikin Skywalker as his apprentice (to keep his promise to Qui-Gon Jinn).

Script - Leaders are spokespersons for economic forces, scriptwriters giving our work
life its spectacle, character-roles, rhythm, plot, dialog, and theme (all six of Aristotle‟s
poetics). I want to make the point that we each play our scripted roles, being characters in
plots already designed, on stages already set; we are expected to just play our part. We
become habituated to the theatrics we work within. It is not that leaders script and



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construct disciplines of power, it is that they become habituated to them, mindless
following their patterns, like the rest of us. Aristotle defines theme as a thought or idea
system we live within. We express that idea system in our character, dialog, and
spectacle, and it plays out in out plot and rhythm. In more conscious capitalism we would
be aware of theme.

        Scripting is part of the control apparatus of leadership work. Leaders are also
subjects of that scripting. Leaders live in the intersecting gaze of a network of theatrical
performances and the scripts they help fashion. And leaders live in the backstage, just off
stage, scripting and plotting what will happen on stage. There has been a multiplication
and diffusion of theatre into a 1,000 micro stages, each with their unique plots, roles, and
dialog. Microstages range from the executive office, boardroom, shareholder‟s annual
meeting, appearances before regulatory bodies, press interviews, sales meetings, to
community meetings. The network of microstages constructs an elaborate theatre of
control, in which most of what we say and do is quite scripted; the intersecting gaze of
many spectators disciplines our discourse.

        Metascript - A leader‟s job is to discern and influence, and occasionally direct
the metascript that controls the performances on stages where they are not present.
Organizations are a massive networking of fragmented wandering audiences across many
microstages. This gives theatres of organization (Boje, 2001a) their panoptic modality. It
also gives us perspectivity. As we change character positions in the wandering audiences
and actors of Tamara, we also change points of view, seeing new plots, themes, dialog,
rhythms, characters, and spectacle. Aristotle‟s poetic elements vary by our network
positionality.

       Leaders are scriptwriters who write and edit the metascript of a organization.
Leaders are more or less effective at tinkering with the metascript of organizations. They
only participate in a fraction of the metascript, yet their scriptwriting and editing can
impact everyone else‟s script or have no impact at all.

        Some metascript would be distressing if remembered. The collective forgetting of
metascript is an important aspect of organization. A memory that can be tolerated is used
unconsciously as a screen against an allied memory that would be distressing if
remembered. There is a good deal of revisionism that accompanies the collective memory
work. One problem with metascript is it becomes illegibly or carelessly scribbled, or not
written down at all. Metascripts can be like patchy clouds whose scrutiny, even with
careful search and minute inspection, reveals only inference and mostly noise. Here and
there the metascript is seared on the brains of old timers, the keepers of the more reliable
collective memory.


          Part II: The Trilogy Theatrics of Spectacle, Carnival and Festival

        To me, there is an inextricable relation between theater and various forms of
capitalism. I see an interactive trilogy of spectacle, carnival, and festive theatrics of



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capitalism. Spectacle capitalism has succeeded industrial capitalism as an accumulation
of spectacles, in what Guy Debord terms “Society of the Spectacle,” now played on a
global stage. The spectacle of the torture and execution on the town square is being
replaced by the spectacle of Survivor, the OJ Simpson trial, the funeral of Princess Diana,
and the War on Terrorism. Leadership occurs within the hybridity of three theatres:
spectacle, carnival, and festival. Leadership is as subjected to theatre as are its spectators.
A more aware leadership can expose the spectacle, enable carnival, or unleash festive
options to predatory globalism. We will review and explore each type, and show their
interpenetration, one does not occur without the other.

Spectacle - Leadership can play a role in a more sustainable, democratic, and humane
performance. Or the leader can create more spectacles, in what Debord calls the Society
of the Spectacle (Debord, 1967). With Disneyfication, McDonaldization, and Las
Vegasization, the spectacle society is being supplanted by global spectacle. These –
„izations‟ are an important modification to Aristotle‟s poetics, to his scheme of coercive
control of spectators by performances of theatre. In the middle ages, the clergy and
nobility controlled theatrical production. Then it returned to state control. Now we see
theatre infused throughout transnational (and national) corporations.

A leader in a more McDonaldized (Ritzer, 2000) spectacle will not take the center stage
too often. Much of the work is revising and editing the intricate metascript that routinizes
and rationalizes the daily routines of thousands of people in thousands of locations. A
McDonaldized theatre is a coarse, dense, mesh of microstages, a Tamara-like network
where everyone has their lines memorized to fit each contingency. The metascript is well
worked out.

Leaders in more Disneyfied organizations, where work life is themed, and consumers
expect to step into the spectacle, spend much time on fashioning a metascript that is a
succession of scenes. People become characters in the themes of a story or play that is
spectacular. Leaders can also help to script a more festive work life.

The first plot of capitalism, as noted by Marx, is the incessant exploitation of workers by
capitalist, until their last drop of blood is converted to surplus value. The second plot is
the dualistic separation of human and Nature. This duality leads to so many others: seeing
humans as alive, animals as mere machine; viewing humans as the primary species. I also
agree with Debord (1967) in observing that this is not by producing products, but by
producing and consuming spectacles. From feudalism to capitalism, theatre is still a tool
of power for training and correcting the social body. Sometimes this tool is not used
skillfully. Leaders, who direct and produce bad theatre, incite resistance. My main point
is dramaturgy interpenetrates capitalism, and vice versa, and there is leadership that is
theatrical.

        Spectacle theatre is a disciplinary mechanism of control of the social body.
Corporations are accumulations of spectacle theatre. This corporate theatre can intensify
the theatrics of control or enact more libratory performances. Augusto Boal (1985: ix),
for example sees theatre as the pedagogy of capitalism, giving it a class reading:



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       Then came the aristocracy and established divisions: some people will go
       to the stage and only they will be able to act; the rest will remain seated,
       receptive, passive – these will be the spectators, the masses, the people.

Modern capitalism promised a reform to aristocracy, but the disciplinary mechanism of
those who go to the stage and the passive, voiceless spectators remains. Leaders can
make us more or less conscious of who gets to act, have a voice, and who writes the
script in our increasingly global capitalism.

        The rhythm of capitalism is changing from one generation to the next. We are
living a faster pace, more amenable to a 24/7-work style. Our rhythm is more digitized,
more virtual, more attuned to information flows, than to seasons. The rhythm of machine
of industrialization is giving way to the rhythm of genetic scripting, gene pools, and
cloning of the Biotech Century (Rifkin, 1997).

        Boal (1985: 105) notes that theatre in capitalism is a purging of the spectator‟s
“antiestablishment characteristics.” This produces corporate players who are more docile,
less resistant. A more postmodern theatre blurs the boundaries between actor and
spectator, setting up the spectator to become actor, then placing antiestablishment on
stage, exposing the theme of the game.

Carnival - Acts of carnival, the carnivalesque, street theatre of resistance that Michel
Bakhtin wrote about, increasingly resists spectacle. Violent forms of stagecraft, such as
public spectacles of torture and execution still happen, but are more subtle and symbolic
bloodlettings. Sometimes a leader will dramatically fire or reprimand, in order to make a
tragic flaw in performance an example to all the spectators. Other times, it is just a show
of power through spectacle. For Aristotle tragic flaws of the spectators witnessing theatre
were more easily purged with portrayals of actors enacting pity and fear on the stage. A
tragic character destroyed by a tragic flaw, such as pride or greed, would be a cathartic
lesson for the spectators. This is no less true in state and papal as it is now in corporate
theatre.

         There have always been acts of resistance to spectacle, which are carnivalesque. I
do not mean the carnival of Rio or Mardi gras, or the Circus. Rather, the kind of carnival
where people take to the streets (or virtual highways) to protest the spectacle of state and
corporate power. For the oppressed, spectacle is tolerations of abuses of power as a way
of life, without resistance. Yet there is always some resistance accompanying even the
most oppressive power. This past decade saw carnival resist the spectacle of an elite
group of corporate and state executives making decisions behind closed doors, in the
1999 WTO protests in Seattle, and in IMF, WB, and G-8 street theatres or resistance ever
since. In political terms, carnival is often the theatre of disruption, upheaval, and
resistance by a loosely knit network of social movements ranging from ecology, labor,
and anti-sweatshop, to save the turtles. Within the network of carnival protests there is a
range of action from non-violent to violent. The majority of the action is quite non-
violent, such as parades with banners, anti-sweatshop fashion shows, and wearing



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consumes and masks. At the other extreme is the property damage, such as turning over
and burning cars, throwing bricks through the windows of Starbucks, McDonald‟s or
NikeTown. I am concerned with establishing an alternative to the theatrics of spectacle
resisted by carnival, and this option I see as a more festive theatrics.

        Festival - I am concerned here with leaders who are able to create more conscious
capitalism; I am calling this “festivalism.” If we are to establish a more festive capitalism
(one more tied to Nature than cyber), then a more aware leadership with visions such as a
non-oil based economy, organic food, and shorter workweeks – might be helpful. Most
festivals are increasingly just spectacles in disguise; festival is just the sideshow to attract
the consumers to consume; most festivals are not very sustainable. Festival is mostly co-
opted from its Dionysian predecessor‟s revelry in the body, feasting, passion, and the
seasons. To me, playing hooky from spectacle would be festive.

        What is a more festive work life? It would, I think, abandon artificial separations
of the proscenium arch dividing characters and spectators. It would expose the
phenotypic (backstage) connections underlying the genotypic (on stage) differences. We
would be in constant relationship with other network elements of theatre without the
divide of front and back stage. As in a Rio carnival, all life becomes sweet chaos, and
there is no off stage. “Stage” means a physical space (often with a proscenium arch) and
it also means a time, as in what stage (of a process) is one at? Scene is a location as
“scene of the crime,” and it is also a time – a time of a set of related interactions among
characters in a play (Rosile, 2001). If we eliminate the proscenium arch, the “curtain”
separating audience from players, then the plot of the story becomes directly accessible to
all.

        For example, leaders who remove the proscenium arch on the global stage,
remove the barriers between those who have and those who have not, as in providing the
requisite computer technology and skills for the have nots to participate in globalism. The
otherness of not having access to the web, to cyberspace, to virtual communication
disappears. The problem I see with the globalization project is it seeks to preserve the
separation of traditional theatre, the proscenium arch separation actor and audience – the
exclusion of the audience form the possibility of becoming actors, relegated to being
perpetual spectators. A more festive example would be to experience living senses rather
than cyber ones: to touch, see, hear, smell, and speak in face-to-face relations.

        In sum, globalization is the proliferation and spread of spectacle, resisted by
carnival, and appropriating festive options. There is also carnival on the streets of Seattle,
Quebec, Genoa, and most cities, as spectators express their disenchantment with
spectacle performances of late modern and postmodern capitalism. An example of late
modern capitalism is the global division of labor, the supply and distribution chains that
encircle the globe to reconnect that division, and the consumer culture created by
advertising. Postmodern has its dark side, the crossbreeding of biotech and info sciences
that would change human and animal life to a less natural, perhaps catastrophic
evolution. My project is to reintegrate festival into capitalism, to tame the beast.




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Fortunately spectacle capitalism, despite all its appropriations, has been unable to
annihilate festival. Yet, there are microstories of more festive leadership.

       Festive Leadership – When my father-in-law Phil Rosile retired from the grocery
wholesale business; his sons, daughters, ex-partners, and ex-employees threw him a
banquet. It was a festive event. On the stage former partners and employees, and sons and
daughters spoke about Phil‟s festive leadership. I sat at one of the banquet tables. Unlike
Enron, Phil did not leave the company or sell his shares to new owners until every
employee had been provided for in the sale. Phil could have taken higher offers, but kept
negotiating until all employees would be secure. Festive leadership has this sense of
community and is more about the seasons of life.

        When Phil goes back to see how his colleagues, and says, “How are you doing?”
They reply, “Be glad you are out of the business.” Phil had managed to be an ethical
player in a business that was not exactly known for ethical practice. He said, “When my
partners and I got together and were deciding if we should get into this business, that was
our main concern --- could we do it ethically.” He had led his partners to participate in
the spectacle of grocery capitalism in ways that preserved their integrity. There were a
few grocery brokers who did not offer bribes to get their products into the stories. And
store buyers knew enough not to ask them for extra things. The norm, however, was to
pay stocking allowances and to send a present or two to the buyer in exchange for shelf
space. After your goods are on the shelf a year or two, that same buyer says to you, “pay
me ten or twenty thousand and we will put in another order.” Then you had a choice to
make.

        Phil told me this story. In the Northeast U.S. there is a grocery chain we shall call
„Big Bird.‟ Big Bird, at one time was a lay back company, which wanted to build a chain
of stores that would last 150 years. The built a solid company. Then the daughters, sons,
and nephews took over the business. They wanted to build it fast, and had that greed and
aggressiveness their parents did not have. All that mattered was getting profits up 15%
each year. It was all short term. Building a strong and ethical company that would be
around in the long term was not their concern. Phil says, “When I had a Big Bird account
for a brand of spaghetti sauce.” The buyer used to call Phil at home saying he wanted to
get a better deal. He was squeezing Phil for special discounts and perks. “I was giving
him the same deal as the other stores, a quarter off every sale.” Phil held his ground and
told him, “You do what you got to do; I give you guys good service and a fair price; if I
give you more discount then ethically I have to offer the same deal to all my accounts for
that line.” Phil wanted to play fair and expected the buyer to do the same. The guy
bought 20 truckloads for a special promotion. His competitors could not believe it. But
that was then, and this is now. Big Bird has a new generation of owners.
        Phil concludes, “At one time, Big Bird was a very honest company. Sure there
were exceptions, but all in all, there was trust.” He added, “The older people never asked
for anything extra. There was a sense of community; it was not do anything necessary to
win.” I looked him in the eye and invited him to continue. “Now, its get a „girl‟ for this
buyer, or send them on a trip, or deliver a new TV to their home.” The younger people
started squeezing, asking for extra consideration and different deals. They had greed their



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parents didn‟t have.” Phil, I asked, “it sounds like you are saying there was more ethics
way back when. But greed has always been here.” “Greed has always been here, but not
to such a large extent.” He added, “we used to give Sears gift certificates to buyers
helping us do special promotions. Then one buyer approached one of our salespersons
and wanted us to cash in fifty $20 gift certificates and put the cash into an open account
for him at Sears.” The partners discussed it, and said, “no way.” Can you imagine, this
guy was hustling scores of brokers to do this? Three out of five would do it. “In the old
days, you didn‟t do that. Sure there were a few, but not as many as today.”

         Festive leadership is resisting the greed and exploitation that permeates spectacle.
It is building a business that lasts a hundred years, where decisions are made that
establish trust in business relationships. Festive leadership accomplishes something
Adam Smith set out to do, to combine moral sentiments with capitalism. Festive
leadership is being an ethical member of your community. Phil is 72 and looks back
upon his business career knowing he gook care of his people and his business.

         Enron and Arthur Andersen megaspectacles have shred investors‟ and employees‟
faith in Corporate America. They continue a greed is good mentality of the 1990s. Yet,
here and there, there are leaders like Phil, who say, “No way, you do what you got to do.”
After all the Congressional hearings, SEC, and Justice Department investigations are
over, it will be leaders like Phil who restore trust in capitalism. Phil knows the difference
between profit and greed. He practices a more conscious capitalism, unwilling to follow
the pack, able to see the difference between short-term gain and long-term benefits.

        In the tri-play of spectacle and carnivals of consumer and employee resistance to
greed, here and there you find festive theatrics. Being aware of the façade, faciality, and
masquerade of spectacle allows us to build more festive Theatrics of Capitalism.




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