Embodiment of Leadership

Because we are not brains walking around on sticks.  –  Because leadership is an experiential art.  –  Because not all people pass through the world with the same set of obstacles.  –  Because intent and impact are not inherently the same.  –  Because the mind/body interface is complex and complicated.

Smartmouth Presents

A collaboration of Autumn Leonard and Shana Ross, this set of workshops combines arts-based and theatrical approaches to common leadership development topics with full attention to embodiment work – as leaders, we are, for better and worse, bound to our bodies.  This series explicitly acknowledges and addresses the power in (and complications that may arise) from learning to lead as ourselves, within ourselves.

Each workshop is tailored to its audience and needs, and can be designed at 90 minutes, 3 hours, or full day/multiple day experiences.

Suggested topics include:

Effective Communication:
How to share so people care – How to align your intent and impact with both speech and nonverbal communication – Learning to uncover and use subtext in all your interactions.

Creative Leadership:
Using theater, writing, and embodied wisdom to unblock your potential, recognize and master your habits, and unleash the leader you want to be.  A romp through methods to reawaken your creativity and harness it for current professional productivity.

Improv to Improve:
Body centered approaches to developing a comfortable, authentic, and engaging leadership presence – how to train your kinesthetic responses so you are able to be your best self “in the moment” and under pressure.  How can you make more active choices, fearlessly?

Harnessing Emotions
How to be emotionally authentic in the workplace – how to engage in emotional innovation as a driver for professional leadership.  Learn to distinguish between mood, emotions, and personality and use all three as critical information systems to inform strategy and relationships in professional context.

What is leadership – Leadership 360/365
What is leadership?  Learn your own leadership style, how to identify your strength,s and begin to build a skillset to enhance and expand our current capacities.  Grapple with contemporary ideas of leadership and -more critically – how they manifest personally.

Intersectionality In Action
A chance to self-examine – including personal ecology and embodiment – insights in a complex and intersectional environment, then practice new skills in awareness, analysis, and experimentation.  How to cultivate both internal and interpersonal mindfulness, be more intentional about your impact, open up the chance to make active choices.  

How to have difficult conversations
A critical leadership skill is the ability to have difficult, uncomfortable conversations in a way that balances immediate and long-term perspectives.  There are many forms of difficult conversations worth having – within the organization, among allies and peers, with external people and entities. This workshop offers a chance to untangle and assess individual tendencies toward common difficulties, experiment with practical tactics, and develop frameworks for addressing future communication challenges.

Specialty Topics:

Partnered Leadership
A couples workshop for professional leadership teams – how to strengthen work teams through relationship building and creative intentionality – addresses both individual leadership growth and deepening commitment to each other as a professional partnership.  Can be adapted for senior leaders who share leadership responsibilities or for staff/board relationships.

Surviving to Thriving*
Individually, both facilitators have faced trauma as well as systematic and institutional obstacles in their own lives.  This workshop can be adapted for an organization/team/community that is committed to transforming into a proactively supportive environment or to address leadership challenges that disproportionately challenge those who have experienced trauma.  *This is inherently a bespoke workshop.


Meet the facilitators:

Shana Ross is founder and principal of Vili and Ve Solutions, where she has served the global nonprofit community since 2010 as an organizational consultant and executive coach, developing and using a variety of arts based approaches to leadership development.  She is part of the Interpersonal Dynamics facilitation team at the Yale School of Management.  Shana is also a playwright and poet who has recently returned to writing after an 18 year hiatus, with over 20 publication credits in 2018.

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Autumn Leonard inherited a love of equality from her parents who braved laws against interracial marriage and got legally hitched in 1960. Her love of storytelling began when she was eight years old and accidentally stumbled into a stage debut at the Edinburgh Fringe. That combination of justice and story has infused her work ever since. Autumn works in creative action, using theater techniques to help craft press events and stage creative social actions. She has worked with United For A Fair Economy, Arts and Ideas Festival. She has been a trainer for Ruckus and a puppet builder for Art & Revolution; she has chaired the Race Task Force at Kolot Chayeinu in support of other Jews of color and taught at Kolot’s K’tanim program. She graduated with a BA in Theater Studies at Yale and holds an MFA in Film from UT Austin. Autumn is currently the Social Media Coordinator for Hand-in-Hand, the domestic employers’ network, and teaches yoga at the Urban Yoga Foundation.

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Shana and Autumn have been collaborating artistically and professionally since 1996, when they met as members of Physical Impulse Theater Troupe at Yale, an experience that informs their work today!  In addition to their independent endeavors, as a partnership they have begun a training sequence in Social Presencing Theater and affiliate with Tzedek Lab, a collection of practitioners dedicated to fighting racism, anti-semitism, and white supremacy.