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Effects on leaders of an art-based leadership intervention

Julia Romanowska (Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)
Gerry Larsson (Department of Safety, Strategy and Leadership, Swedish National Defence College, Karlstad, Sweden)
Töres Theorell (Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 21 October 2013

Abstract

Purpose

In the present study an art-based leadership intervention has been evaluated in comparison to a conventional leadership development program. The purpose of this paper is to explore effects on two aspects of personality, namely Sense of Coherence and Agreeableness, as well as on two aspects of leadership behaviors evaluated by subordinates – Laissez-faire and Capacity to Cope with stress.

Design/methodology/approach

Participating leaders were randomized to two-year-long leadership programs, with follow-up at 12 and 18 months. The art-based program built on an experimental theater form, a collage of literary text and music, followed by discussions. The comparison program utilized more conventional pedagogical methods.

Findings

Leaders in the art-based group, compared to the leaders in the conventional group, showed a significant improvement in Sense of Coherence (stress resilience) and Agreeableness (pro-social behavior). Likewise, the leaders receiving art-based intervention showed a significant improvement in leadership behavior evaluated by subordinates; Laissez-faire decreased (increased responsibility) and Capacity to Cope with stress increased, while the opposite was found in the leaders in the conventional group.

Originality/value

This study represents a new, cross-disciplinary approach. To the knowledge, previous research has not attempted a comparison between art-based leadership approach and a more conventional education. The art-based intervention seems to be more effective in stimulating long-term favorable changes in leaders’ behavior than the conventional program. These positive findings are consistent with earlier findings from this research regarding improved neurobiological resilience and mental health in subordinates of the leaders receiving art-based intervention.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The Swedish Research Council partly supported this study. A grant from Swedbank Research Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.

Citation

Romanowska, J., Larsson, G. and Theorell, T. (2013), "Effects on leaders of an art-based leadership intervention", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 32 No. 9, pp. 1004-1022. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMD-02-2012-0029

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited