By Peter Walker for CNN
Adjust font size:
(CNN) -- The most inspirational business leaders can sometimes seem to be inhabiting their role much like an actor, using their rhetorical and persuasive powers to motivate a crowd of peers and subordinates.
For one management professor, the parallel is so striking that he teaches executives a whole series of lessons they can learn from the theatrical world -- whether mimicking actors, directors or writers.
Harry L. Davis, Professor of Creative Management at the University of Chicago's highly-rated Graduate School of Business, teaches his innovative course, "Leadership as Performance Art," to senior managers at the school's US campus.
Now, in the best theatrical tradition, he is taking the show on the road, leading courses over successive days later this month in Dubai, London and Paris, part of the school's Global Leadership Series.
The free, one-evening events -- a bargain given that the usual week-long course costs around $8,000 per person -- aim to demonstrate three separate leadership roles, with their own distinct set of skills.
Firstly, leaders who are actors are able to connect fully with all manner of different "audiences," guiding them through sometimes complex concepts, and delivering an effective performance again and again.
Leader-directors are adept at keeping a large "cast" focused on the company's common goal, learning how people influence each other and how hidden preconceptions can block change.
Finally, leaders-as-playwrights can devise and revise corporate "scripts" according to the changing business environment.
"Leaders rise to high levels of effectiveness when they develop strong connections to the performance aspect of their role," Davis says in an introduction to the course.
"Life requires improvisation. No matter how much one plans, the unpredictable appears.
"Rapid changes in customer and employee needs, the increasing geographic reach of many organizations, and shifting competitive landscapes reward leaders who can improvise skillfully rather than follow out-dated routines."
The event is part of a range of Chicago's Global Leadership Series events taking place in 13 cities from late 2005 to early 2007.
Some of the other lectures are more traditional business school fodder, taking in areas such as risk management and how to attract suitably qualified employees.
Others are more unusual. For example, last month in Tokyo, an audience learned about how businesses and markets can be affected by one extremely hard-to-control source -- gossip.
Ron Burt, Professor of Sociology and Strategy at the Graduate School of Business, explained how gossip can help spark productivity improvements in the workplace, and sometime, more destructively, can shape the reputations of leaders.
Burt noted how good reputations in business "not necessarily come from your hard work, but more from the interests of the people who talk about your work."
All the world's a stage... for some managers.
FACT BOXFT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006
FACT BOXEMBA SNAPSHOT
Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.
A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.
A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.