The Break: Work-life balance, energy and leadership anno 2015 - Reconfiguring contemporary leadership through 2400 years old coaching concept Protreptic and Material Storytelling

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“How can we make people get energy rather than loosing energy (if not burning out)
from going to work?”

This paper tries to explore the above question on how managers and employees can get energy instead of loosing energy (and in worst cases burnout) while going to work? Questions like this one are asked by managers of a major Scandinavian brands and companies. A lot of organizations are today dealing with various work-life imbalances and burnout which effect both the health of the people working in the companies, their families and are costing the companies and the society billions of dollars and euro each year.

The paper tries to explore new ways to deal with these challenges through a quantum approach to storytelling where the enactment of core values, bodies, spaces and artifacts positions managers and CEO’s from major Scandinavian organizations in sites where they can re-evaluate their life.

Rocks, ice, sounds of water from a small creek…..

10 managers from IKEA, Novo Nordisk and other big Scandinavia brands hiking and exploring core values in leadership and life through five days in the mountains of the Pyrenees on the border between Spain and France as part of the leadership program “Walk to Explore your Leadership” .

”Time to reflect closer to heaven as we did in the Pyrenees, makes me humble and simplifies the thoughts on how to lead within my own set of values. It´s all about energy”,
(Lars Lund Hansen, manager, Novo Nordisk)
A few objects; a neckless, a candle, a dragon and five crystal stones on a table in an office of a municipality in Denmark. Silence…..

Rebuilding rooms for taking breaks with the inclusion of different activities such as a game of soccer or a hike seems to provide the tools to rework these imbalances or enslaving patterns.


The attempt at meeting the challenges of the million-dollar question is stemming from the ‘bets on the future’ – or what David Boje coins as ‘antenarratives’, (Boje, 2008) that emerged through various reconfiguring story actions, on two different occasions.

The paper thus elaborates on two cases of restorying events; One taking place in the Pyrenees of Europe in October 2015. One taking place in the hallways of the City Hall of a Municipality in Denmark in May 2015. In both cases the ‘bets on the future’ actions were given in a materialized form and drawing on a subtle form of negotiation of core leadership values; which values should matter and which actions should no longer be allowed to matter (as much)? In other words – a negotiation where both senses of the word ‘matter’ played a vital role and where these founding differences (Barad 2007) were reworked.

The paper is written through loosely connected fragments of text pieces (of different genres) and contents as a manner of being true to the heritage of living story relationality and nonlinearity within a quantum approach to storytelling (Boje 1991) and as a practical highlight of quantum entanglement as an emergence of meaning-mattering, which the reader is very much part of enacting. This means that the following pieces may be read in any different order you may choose.

The paper is organized as a ‘between’ of the following five pieces of ‘breaks’ which have in common that they all relate themselves to the million-dollar question:

As a backdrop for the posed question, the Organizational terrain break elaborates the terrain of Organizations anno 2015 as a terrain of complexity, streamlining, language-orientation and dis-functionality. The latter in regard to a WHO acknowledged concern for health issues related to work-related stress (Prætorius, 2012) and an ongoing urge for learning and development. Matters that are being countered by requesting a ‘full stop – and reverse’, (Brinkman, 2015). A counter narrative (Boje 2008) that is challenging the present ‘modus operandi’ of leadership both at the personal level and the organizational level. Likewise, counter-narratives are posed to argue that language and the social has been granted too much power on the dispense of the bodily, physical and biological – or in short, in dispense of the material.

The break To be or not to be poses the theoretical notion of dis-/continuity (Barad, 2007, 2010) from the quantum approach to storytelling (Strand 2012, 2014). This highlights the dynamic of how in-/exclusions matter for world-making practices also at the organizational level.

The Taking a stance break introduces the two different technologies of Protreptic and Material Storytelling respectively. Protreptic is a 2400 years old concept where core values are elaborated as founding differences for the leadership actions to come aka for the engagement in practices of becoming. Material storytelling story modes are posed as material-discursive attempts at rebalancing present hegemonies of mind/body, nature/culture, matter/meaning, etc. with relation to the posed question.

The piece Lets walk, elaborates two different cases of using two different technologies. Both based on the idea of walking to explore what matters and what should be allowed to matter. One technology - Protreptic explores core values – what a quantum approach would address as ‘founding differences that matters’ - with a fellow human as companion, provider and witness to your elaborations. Another technology employs ‘walk-alongs’ through the physical terrain of your own organization with a foreigner as company and with an entailed rebuild of the physical surroundings. Both cases are depicted in their use of the communicative platform of Object theatre from the methodology of Material Storytelling (Strand 2012).

The Bets on the Future piece discusses the extend to which the cases of using this kind of technologies may provide fruitful ‘bets on the future’ in regard to the million-dollar question and the challenges it raises. The piece concludes towards a set of Dogmas for future reference in addressing these challenges.
TitelThe Break
Antal sider16
Publikationsdato18 dec. 2015
StatusUdgivet - 18 dec. 2015
BegivenhedbigSTORY - Steel case Downtown LA & USC (University of Southern California), Los Angeles, USA
Varighed: 17 dec. 201519 dec. 2015


LokationSteel case Downtown LA & USC (University of Southern California)
ByLos Angeles