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'The Tempest'

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					olivier mythodrama. ‘The Tempest’                                                                       page 1




‘The Tempest’
A Story for Our Time


A terrible storm –old systems falling apart – senior leaders floundering as they try to repair the system –
a feeling of shipwreck – plotting and manoeuvering for political power – self-centred hedonists looking
for whatever benefits and pleasures they can – an incredible love-affair between a prince and a pauper –
spectacular new forms of entertainment in the midst of the chaos – new visions of the future – the most
senior leader of all bringing in a new paradigm of ‘we are all in this together’ – reconciliation and
dialogue between bitter enemies…


You would be forgiven for thinking these are headlines from last week’s Daily Mail.

They are of course key events in Shakespeare’s remarkable play ‘The Tempest’, which forms the
backdrop to our programme ‘Transformational Leadership’. It is surely no coincidence that we are
delivering this programme more than ever before at the moment, and that so many of our clients are
commenting on its acute contemporary relevance.

We are indeed living in a time of terrible storms – economic, ecological, political and social – and there is
every indication that we are not going to find quick or easy solutions to any of them. At the World
Economic Forum in Davos this year Richard Olivier repeatedly heard the word ‘unprecedented’ used to
describe the present world situation.

Forward-looking thinkers in different disciplines are telling us that the ‘old ship’ is not only broken
beyond repair, but that significant amounts of it need complete renewal and revisioning. Darwin
observed that evolutionary jumps tend to only happen when there is great pressure or crisis. We are
perhaps on the threshold of one of the biggest breakdowns, and therefore potential breakthroughs that
humanity has ever known.

In a recent article in the Times the Nobel Laureate Ben Okri wrote:

“The only hope lies in a fundamental re-examination of the values that we have lived by in the past 30
years. We must bring back into society a deeper sense of the purpose of living. The unhappiness in so
many lives ought to tell us that success alone is not enough. Material success has brought us to a strange
spiritual and moral bankruptcy. The more the society has succeeded, the more its heart has failed. All
great cultures renew themselves by accepting the challenges of their times, and, like the biblical David,
forge their vision and courage in the secret laboratory of the wild, wrestling with their demons, and
perfecting their character. We must transform ourselves or perish.”

So what wisdom does a 400-year old story have that might help us navigate and transform our troubled
times?

The main gift of the story is that it gives great insight into the multi-dimensional and difficult nature of
change and transformation, both in the individual and in the organization of which s/he is part. It helps
us understand the complexities, challenges and requirements of being an effective agent of change, in
whatever circumstance or level we operate.
olivier mythodrama. ‘The Tempest’                                                                      page 2



Highlights of the five acts of the story and the themes and questions they provoke:


    Prospero’s Journey
                   ACT I



                                       ACT II            ACT III          ACT IV          ACT V
               CREAT ING
              THE CLIMATE




                                    THE LOR DS                 BLESSING             INT ERGRAT ION
                                      REACT                    THE NEW



                                                  “MAKING
                                                 LABOURS
                                                PLEASURES”
                                                                             TRANSFORMATION
                   EN GAGING
                   TH E T EAM


                                                                     DISTR ACTING
                                THE SERVANT S                       CONSIPRATORS
                                    REACT


                                                    CONFRONTING
                                                     “MEN OF SIN”




Act I
Prospero is the principle ‘change-leader’. In the first scene, the only one that does not take place on the
island, he uses powers he has developed over many years to create a storm that shipwrecks his old
enemies from Naples. On the boat we hear the fearful shout:

                                      “we split!”

We are immediately reminded that radical transformation is almost always preceded by some kind of
disintegration.

     •   What kind of storm do you have in your organization?
     •   Is it strong enough to create enough sense of urgency?
     •   If not, how might you increase it?
     •   How do you mange the emotional reactions of people who feel ‘shipwrecked?

The rest of the story takes place on an island. We think of this as a place of learning, traditionally known
as a liminal space, outside the normal time/space strictures. In this kind of environment learning can take
place much faster, and new ideas are more easily absorbed than if we are in our familiar location, at our
familiar desks, doing familiar things.
olivier mythodrama. ‘The Tempest’                                                                         page 3




     •   What kind of learning spaces do you have or create?
     •   Where can you take people?
     •   How can you create, even within the familiar environment, some physical changes that break the
         habitual thinking patterns?

In the rest of Act I we see Prospero undertaking one of the most essential tasks of any change leader. He
has to be agile and flexible as he engages different members of his ‘team’.

First he tells what we call a ‘compelling story’ to his daughter who knows nothing of their earlier life in
Milan.

     •   How good are you at telling this kind of story – a story that contains facts, but also vivid
         narrative, emotional engagement and personal commitment. The kind of story that has a
         listener on the edge of their seat, genuinely engaged.
     •   How good are you as a storyteller?
     •   How good is your organization?

Then he must remind Ariel of their alignment, Ariel the spirit figure who represents the spirit and purpose
of an enterprise, who calls us to remember that purpose even, or especially in difficult times.

     •   How do we stay in touch with our Ariel?
     •   How do we monitor if we are staying true to our purpose?

Lastly Prospero must control Caliban, that earthy, appetite-driven figure, self-centred, short-termist,
always out for the next gain, excitement, and pleasure. Given that we all have a Caliban within us:

     •   How do we manage our own appetites?
     •   How do we manage those people who are primarily Caliban in their drives? They often have a
         gift of practical knowledge of resource, yet can cause untold damage if not appropriately
         restrained, rewarded or distracted.



Act II

As the story moves forward we see three typical reactions to change – blame, naivety and political
manoeuvering.

The Lords from the boat blame the king for taking them on this boat journey to witness his daughter’s
marriage in Tunis.

An old councilor, Gonzalo, starts pontificating about what a wonderful new place they are in (not of
great interest to cold, wet and hungry colleagues), and when the king takes a nap two of them start
plotting to kill him and seize power….

     •   How do you manage/appease the ‘blame culture’?
     •   How do you spot and mange the political manoeuvering that goes on during uncertain times?
     •   Are you able and willing to use political leverage wisely, for the good of the greater whole?
olivier mythodrama. ‘The Tempest’                                                                     page 4



At the opposite end of the social spectrum the drunken butler and servant from the boat, Stephano and
Trinculo, come across Caliban. They give him some alcohol, he immediately thinks they are celestial
spirits (as some senior managers have been known to view strategy consultants), and they begin to plot
how they can kill Prospero and take over the island. The scene is both very funny and uncomfortably
familiar.

     •    How do you spot these kinds of conspiracies
     •    How do you manage different kinds of motivation?
     •    Is there a way of connecting these kinds of people to a sense of pride in their work?



Act III
In the middle of all this Shakespeare writes what has been called his greatest ever love scene. Ferdinand
and Miranda are besotted with each other. Ferdinand doesn’t even mind the hard manual labour
Prospero has given him as a test. In fact he says:

                            “This, my mean task
                            Would be as heavy to me as odious, but
                            The mistress which I serve quickens what’s dead,
                            And makes my labours pleasures”

     •    What is it that ‘makes our labours pleasures?’
     •    As a leader how do you help others to connect to work in a meaningful way?
     •    How can you help people feel more connected to each other, one of the hallmarks of high-
          performing teams?
     •    Who are the Ferdinands in the organization, those who will willingly carry the extra logs because
          of their sense of service?
     •    Are you able to identify the ‘change champions’ around you?


Later in the scene Ferdinand says to Miranda “Hear my soul speak”…

     •    Why do we so often feel we have to leave our soul behind at work?
     •    How can we create more opportunity, more permission to bring more of ourselves to work, even
          in small ways?
     •    Where are the seeds of a new future that Ferdinand and Miranda embody?


In sharp contrast to this flow of love and connection, the second half of Act III brings what we call a
‘truth thunderbolt.’ Ariel gathers three of the lords together and then confronts them:

                            “You are three men of sin…
                            The powers…do pronounce by me
                            Lingering perdition… shall step by step
                                              Attend your ways…”

He uncompromisingly outlines their ‘sins’, makes clear what the consequences will be if they continue,
and tells them what change is needed from them. Shakespeare seems to be telling us that there is a time
in any change project when this tough action is required. No more cups of tea or friendly chats.
olivier mythodrama. ‘The Tempest’                                                                       page 5




     •   How appropriately fierce can you be when required?
     •   Can you embody the force necessary for this kind of ‘thunderbolt’ without tarnishing it with your
         personal emotion?


Act IV

In Act IV we are treated to a spectacular entertainment. Prospero asks Ariel to call on spirit friends to play
the roles of three goddesses of heaven and earth to put on a show to bless the union of Ferdinand and
Miranda, who embody the new future.

There is a time when leaders can use symbol and metaphor to great effect, creating new narratives,
communicating in ways that include and yet go beyond our rational selves.

When a leader gets this right, powerful messages can be delivered in a way that people do not forget.
We think for instance of Nelson Mandela walking out on to the rugby stadium for the 1996 world cup
final wearing a Springbok rugby shirt an action which has been described as being the most significant
transformational moment of his new presidency, one that in an instant communicated a new paradigm
directly and unforgettably to the millions watching.

     •   How much do you draw on the power of symbol and ritual to dramatically communicate
         change?
     •   What symbolic actions could you create that transform peoples’ perceptions?
     •   How do you ‘bless’ new initiatives, new energy?
     •   How do you engage effective ‘appreciative enquiry’, learning from all the good things that are
         happening, as well as from the difficulties?

The story here also invites us to consider the meaning in the fact that the goddesses chosen represent
the union of heaven and earth. Most of the world’s spiritual traditions say that of one of the core
purposes of the human being is to be a bridge between these two realms. (And when we enter ‘the zone’
of peak performance we can often have a literal experience of the body as the conduit between the
two). It may be at the outer edges of our conceptual thinking, but could we ask ourselves what this might
mean for our organization?

     •   What might be our ‘planetary purpose?’

Perhaps prompted by this “reminder” from the goddesses, Prospero ascends to big picture thinking as the
show finishes with his famous lines:

                            “We are such stuff as dreams are made on;
                            and our little life is rounded with a sleep…”

     •   As the crisis of ‘the old’ deepens, what are our dreams, the dreams that will outlast us?
     •   Between the two ‘big sleeps’, what is it we really want to create?
     •   What future do we want to create for our grandchildren?
     •   How have we become so short-term in our vision?

“We have the opportunity to join together to experience what very few generations in history have had
the privilege of knowing: a generation mission, a compelling moral purpose, a shared and unifying
cause, and an opportunity to work together to choose a future for which our children will thank us
instead of cursing our failure….”
                                                              Al Gore
olivier mythodrama. ‘The Tempest’                                                                       page 6




Act V

At the beginning of Act V Shakespeare challenges us with what is arguably one of the most profound,
yet simple moments in the whole of the canon. Ariel tells Prospero that everything is as he wishes, all is
under control. And yet, Ariel says, if Prospero could now see the desolate state of the lords, particularly
the ‘good old lord’ Gonzalo, who twelve years earlier had shown Prospero great kindness as he was being
exiled, and who now has tears running down his cheeks:

                            “your affections would become tender.
           PROSPERO:        dost thou think so, spirit?
           ARIEL:           mine would, sir, were I human
         PROSPERO           and mine shall…”

And in that very moment Prospero undergoes the kind of radical transformation that Gandhi surely had
in mind when he spoke the famous words: “you must be the change you want to see in the world”.
Prospero goes on to say that it he realizes it is time for him to give up his ‘rough magic’, and then he
vows to break his magic staff and bury his magic books deep in the earth.

What can this mean? Taking it layer by layer we understand the questions:

     •    How do you speak ‘truth to power’ in a way that will be received rather than defended against?
     •    What is the ‘rough magic’ that a leader must consider relinquishing if s/he is to move to a higher
          level of their leadership and be a more effective agent of change? Is it a behaviour, a way of
          thinking, a relationship?
     •    When is the right time to let of control and enter into a different relationship to the system you
          have been trying to change?

And beyond this, we understand that Prospero seems to have a heart-opening experience when Ariel tells
him of Gonzalo’s tears. He allows his ‘affections’ to become ‘tender’. We think of the wonderful Native
American aphorism: “the longest road you will ever walk is the sacred journey from your head to your
heart”. And if we think of this in archetypal terms, we can understand this as a new balancing of the head
and the heart, the Masculine and the Feminine. As we try to find a way beyond the current crises, as we
reach for new paradigms, perhaps this is one of the most important underlying themes. In his book ‘The
Passions of the Western Mind’, a breathtaking review of the development of Western philosophy,
Richard Tarnas write as part of his conclusion:

         “An epochal shift is taking place in the contemporary psyche, a reconciliation between two great
polarities, a union of opposites: a sacred marriage between the long-dominant but now alienated
masculine and the long-suppressed but now ascending feminine….Our time is struggling to bring forth
something fundamentally new in human history. We seem to be witnessing, suffering, the birth labour of
a new reality, a new form of human existence, a “child” that would be the fruit of this great archetypal
marriage.”

Prospero seems to understand that the time for excessive control, of standing outside the system and
manipulating it, is over. And in his final act of leadership he draws a large circle in the ground – one the
most ancient of all symbols of inclusivity – and invites all the ‘players’ into the circle without knowing
what is going to happen. He speaks from his heart, he forgives, though does not condone what was
perpetrated upon him, and from this a genuinely new system emerges.
olivier mythodrama. ‘The Tempest’                                                                       page 7




     •   What is the balance between the thinking and feeling functions in your organization?
     •   To what extent is the ‘alienated masculine’ still operative? What would it look like to let go of
         this?
     •   What would a higher integration look like?
     •   How good are you/the organization at listening to what is trying to emerge, rather than
         following a previously laid out plan?

“Learning to tolerate the ‘don’t know mind’, or just being still, holding the whole in awareness, not
having to know anything. This is the true inner work of redirection – and almost the opposite of the
conditioning of most managers.
The chronic shortcoming of many planned change efforts is blind adherence to ‘the plan’, which
reproduces the same unconscious mindsets. Operating from larger intention brings into play forces one
could never tap from just trying to impose our will on a situation.
There’s nothing more personal than vision, yet the visions that ultimately prove transformational have
nothing to do with us as individuals. Visions that have power are expressions of deep purposefulness,
acted upon in the present moment.
When people in leadership positions begin to serve a vision infused with a larger purpose, their work
shifts naturally from producing results to encouraging the growth of people who produce results.”

         From ”Presence” by Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers

Not all are happy and transformed, and some probably never will be, but the strength and foundations
of the new are by now solid enough to take everyone onto a new ship (both literally and metaphorically).
And Gonzalo sums the whole journey by saying:

          “Was Milan thrust from Milan, that his issue
           Should become Kings of Naples? O, rejoice
           Beyond a common joy, and set it down
           With gold on lasting pillars: in one voyage
           Ferdinand, found a wife,
           Where he himself was lost; Prospero his dukedom
           In a poor isle; and all of us (found) ourselves
           When no man was his own.”

This perhaps expresses the best possible outcome of a transformational process. After the inevitable
difficulties of disintegration, the majority of people move forward into a new system, and a new
paradigm, one in which there is a new sense of meaning, purpose and connection.

In these troubled times the story of ‘The Tempest’ stands as a beacon from which our clients and we
continue to draw great inspiration, challenge and learning. We are all blessed to have such material at
our disposal.



Nicholas Janni
Olivier Mythodrama

July 2009

				
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