Leadership: You won’t forget Richard Olivier’s leadership message

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

A few years ago, several of my The Executive Committee (TEC) chair associates and I had the privilege of spending a wonderfully inspiring and entertaining morning with Richard Olivier (yes, the son of Laurence Olivier), director of Olivier Mythodrama Associates in London and visiting fellow at the Cranfield School of Management.
He had such a profound influence on our thinking about leadership that we decided to bring him live to Milwaukee.
I’m excited to report that after three years of juggling calendars that this legend in his own time will appear May 18, 2005, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Milwaukee Marriott West, W231 N1600 Corporate Court, Waukesha. For ticket information, please contact Michele Bernstein at TEC, (262) 821-3346. I guarantee that his leadership message will remain with you for a lifetime. Let’s take a closer look at what Richard espouses.
Uniquely, he talks about leadership from the mindset of Shakespeare’s "Henry V and the Muse of Fire." This play is about Henry V’s decision to reclaim France. It culminates with the English, badly outnumbered, defeating the French in a miraculous victory at Agincourt.
Henry’s leadership trials and tribulations are the subject of the leadership mosaic cleverly crafted by Olivier. He begins with the following set of assumptions:
1. The life of an airline captain has been described by aircraft pilots for years as hours of boredom interrupted by sheer moments of crisis. The point here is that great leaders understand the arsenal they have available to help them lead effectively during these moments of crisis.
2. The overall cycle of leadership almost always entails the need for a vision. That is, the ability to see and imagine the end result that others can’t see.
3. Leadership requires an acute ability to assess the current situation, evaluate available resources and allocate those resources accordingly.
4. Great leaders know that the leadership journey requires the organization to accept change and, in the process, there will be traitors present who will do everything in their power (both overtly and covertly) to corrupt the leader’s action as the change agent.
5. It is inevitable that there will be blocks along the way, setbacks, disappointments and, undoubtedly, major obstacles that the leader must overcome.
6. It is also inevitable that, as Henry V experienced, there will be "The Dark Night of the Soul." This is the time when a leader must draw from his or her inner strength, from core values and from an unyielding belief in mission to endure. It is also the major moment of doubt, a time when a leader is very much alone.
7. From the darkness, the leader must rebound and re-inspire the troops, and display the passion of commitment toward the mission and its stated objectives.
8. The cycle reaches its conclusion with community knowledge that the vision has been achieved. Now it is time to return to the non-crisis condition of leadership and plant new seeds for organizational growth and accomplishment.
Olivier has developed a fascinating leadership template to enable a leader to select from his or her leadership arsenal; depending upon which one of the eight listed assumptions above are in demand at the moment. This template has both a positive and negative leadership implication. In other words, if used at the wrong time and place, what is good quickly becomes bad.
The Good King – The Good King is the leader who is successfully managing a business in an orderly fashion, one who is operating according to plan and mostly predictable circumstances. Such people are precise, deliberate, methodical, practical and detail-oriented. The flip side is the "Bitter Old Man," who leads with too much order, who is stiff, rigid and uncompromising.
The Great Mother – The Great Mother is, as we would expect, nurturing. Behavioral traits include trust, support, helpfulness, caring, warmth, empathy, encouragement and receptiveness. The flip side is the "Devouring Mother," who is overly possessive, overly protecting and reluctant to let her children roam on their own.
The Warrior – This leadership quality shows itself as the supreme and confident commander: quick, confident, persuasive, forceful and inspiring. The flip side is the "Mercenary/Tyrant" who acts as an egotistical S.O.B. with no seeming concern for others, a bully who doesn’t even disguise it. A "my way or the highway" type of person.
The Medicine Woman – Change is the operative word to describe the medicine woman type of leader. Attributes of this leadership style include: enthusiasm, creativity, imagination, risk acceptance and an animated view of possibilities. The flip side is the "Madwoman" who is so addicted to change that the realities of maintaining the status quo for practical reasons is not an item on her leadership radar screen.

These are the eight dyadic leader archetypes. Henry V had to call upon all of them to achieve his vision of subduing a superior foe under the most difficult, if not impossible, of circumstances. No one believed he could do it. His closest advisors argued against the original assault at Harfleur with 10,000 troops. But he succeeded against all odds.
As chief executives today, the need to understand where each leader archetype is needed at any given episode of a company’s life is paramount to success. The ability to pull the appropriate archetype from the arsenal and use it effectively is what separates the truly great leader from the mediocre one.
Until next month, I encourage you to think through these things. But more importantly, I hope to personally welcome you on May 18 at the Milwaukee Marriott West, where you can personally enjoy the wisdom and passion of Richard Olivier’ timeless message at the event, which is being hosted in conjunction with Small Business Times. I promise an unforgettable experience.

Harry S. Dennis III is the president of TEC (The Executive Committee) in Wisconsin and Michigan. TEC is a professional development group for CEOs, presidents and business owners. He can be reached at (262) 821-3340 or at hiduke@aol.com.

April 15, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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