On March 28th Stevenson University held a Leadership Storytelling Workshop at Rockland Center on the Owings Mills campus. The event was a collaboration between Business and Leadership Professor Anna Kayes, and Program Coordinator of Theatre and Media Performance, Ryan Clark. The workshop consisted of a simulation in which business students pitched their leadership stories to theatre students who played the role of Amazon executives.

“In today’s highly competitive business environment, it is imperative for leaders to be able to articulate who they are and what they stand for,” said Kayes whose Organizational Leadership students participated in the workshop.

Dr. Kayes was inspired by an interview in Forbes with Paul Smith, Director of Consumer and Communications Research at Proctor & Gamble. In the interview, Smith gives examples of how senior executives at large companies use storytelling almost exclusively to motivate, teach, and lead their teams. Smith states that Proctor & Gamble hires movie directors, and Motorola hires theatre groups to teach storytelling skills to top management.

Dr. Kayes reached out to Ryan Clark from the theatre program, and together they developed the workshop details and itinerary. During the networking portion of the workshop, theatre students used their improvisational skills to play the roles of Amazon executives from various departments such as fashion and technology, and interact with the business students aiming to impress them with true personal stories of how they excelled in a leadership role in the past.

SU Leadership Storytelling Workshop  

Following the networking segment, the students engaged in a debriefing session where theatre students provided feedback to the business students on their storytelling skills, and offered tips on how they could improve. Students commented that it was a great experience to build confidence in their leadership skills. Others noted that they realized that they each have a story to tell, and working with theater students pushed them out of their comfort zone.

“This was a powerful experience for both theatre and business students. For theatre students, it provided them the opportunity to develop a realistic character—an executive at Amazon.” said Clark. “Performance opportunities beyond the stage and screen are plentiful for actors in health care simulations, public speaking workshops and executive communication seminars. What makes Stevenson University so unique is our ability to create these types of cross-curricular extraordinary experiences for our students. This collaboration represents the best a liberal arts education has to offer." 

Kayes and Clark plan to continue the collaboration between the two departments and hold Leadership Storytelling Workshops during the fall 2018 semester and beyond.