Augustana Extended Education (AEE)

Creative Leadership through Arts: Leadership & Playfulness

This program is currently in development.  For general inquiries, please contact the Program Coordinator at

What is the Connection Between Art and Leadership?

Every leader is an artist. Great leaders and great artists share many of the same attributes; they innovate, they motivate, they challenge, they excite, they create a sense of shared experience and community.

The same criteria that governs how we critique or respond to a work of art can be applied to the art of leadership. Leadership can be perceived as lacking clarity, disingenuous, incompetent, disagreeable. Leadership can also be described as inspiring, consistent, engaging, passionate, creative, great.

Utilizing our liberal arts faculty expertise, Augustana’s Creative Leadership through Arts series of full-day, open enrolment professional development short courses uses a unique, art-based interdisciplinary approach to explore leadership. What does it mean to be a leader? What makes a great leader? How can I develop the creativity, innovation, and leadership capabilities required to adapt to change, be competitive, improve my business performance, make meaningful connections with my team, and make a positive difference within my organization?

Each course integrates arts-based experiential learning, such as improv, creative writing, filmmaking, music compilation, painting or sculpture, along with facilitated discussion, case studies, shared group experiences, and networking, to explore and practice leadership development.

Creative Leadership through Arts: Leadership & Playfulness

Leadership & Playfulness, the first course in Augustana’s ‘Creative Leadership through Arts’ series, will explore how you can use playfulness, through playfulness based theatrical improvisation techniques, as a strategy to become a great leader. Playfulness is often thought of as a ‘silly way for children to pass the time’, but current research into brain activity has shown that playfulness in the workplace can lead to better group cohesion and enhanced productivity.
What will the day look like? You will start the day with some ice-breaking improvisational exercises that will help set the stage for an intimate and open sharing atmosphere, followed by an informative discussion about how playfulness is utilized in theatre to problem solve. Your course instructors, Jana and Gus, will then lead you through a variety of experiential learning improvisational games, and link in how playfulness based theatrical improvisation techniques can be used by you to develop strategies for adapting playfulness into your leadership practice.

Course Outcomes

Our experiential approach and blended learning model will help you realize your fullest creative leadership potential, and have an immediate, measurable and lasting impact on your team and your organization. You will:

  • Learn how to adopt a philosophy of playfulness while exploring and developing your creative leadership competencies.
  • Create a vision, mindset, and the skills to build your capacity to lead with greater awareness and confidence, inspire others to act and make an impact, and energize your team
  • Explore creative ways to adapt to quickly changing environments and develop ‘outside of the box’ solutions for challenges.
  • Practice spontaneous and confident decision making, allowing you to develop resilience and remain competitive in times of change and complexity.

Is this course for me?

Are you:

  • tired of the traditional top down leadership approach, or this approach does not work for you / your organization?
  • a leader in your current organization?
  • wanting to move into a position of leadership within your current organization?
  • aiming to invest in your development as a leader?
  • hoping to build and engage your team, and improve their creativity and impact?
  • wishing to lead with greater intention and awareness?
  • explorative and aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo?
  • desiring to learn from, collaborate, network, and connect with like-minded creative leaders?

Leadership & Playfulness is a one day professional development program, created for all sectors (social, commercial, corporate and public) that will equip you with the skills and open mindset to become a resilient, creative, great leader. No improv or performing arts experience is expected or required.

Your Instructors

Matthew "Gus" Gusul

A portrait photo of Matthew Gusul

Gus is an artist, educator, activist, storyteller, development worker, and community organizer whose has led community-based projects with a diversity of organizations throughout Western Canada, Latin America, and India.

Throughout his years of experience with various organizations around the world, Gus has been privy to what works and what doesn’t from a leadership standpoint, and has explored a style of leadership which relies upon the community members to supply the momentum while molding and shaping their efforts for the best possible outcomes. This leadership allows team members to take ownership over any project leading to shared responsibility and to allowing peoples’ strength to be highlighted and valued while avoiding scenarios of top-down decision making.

His mentors and other witnesses to his work have often described his efforts as ‘miraculous’ because of his ability to bring together desperate elements and produce a final outcome of value for the communities he works with. The reason for this success – shared ownership and bringing to light team members’ strengths.

Gus’ most recent work focused upon the creation of community-based theatre performances in Tamil Nadu, India with HelpAge India and delivering culturally appropriate and playful literacy projects in Indigenous communities throughout Alberta with Frontier College. He has worked with seniors, inmates in prisons, Canada’s Indigenous populations, young people, GLBTQ communities, and religious groups helping them tell their stories and to have a positive impact on their community.

Jana O'Connor

A portrait photo of Jana O

Jana O’Connor is an Edmonton-born performer, producer, theatre instructor and playwright. She has worked with a number of local companies including Teatro la Quindicina, Concrete Theatre, Northern Light Theatre, Catalyst Theatre and Rapid Fire Theatre. She is also a cast member/writer on the national CBC Radio sketch comedy show, The Irrelevant Show.

Jana was Rapid Fire Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director and shaped the curriculum for their Academy. She has taught her first love, improv, to participants of all ages for many years. She has also taught theatre to youth and adults both at the Citadel Theatre’s Foote Theatre School and at the Free Will Players’ Camp Shakespeare.

Jana has recently begun to distinguish herself as a playwright. She won the Alberta Playwright’s Network Discovery Prize in 2007 for her short play The Lonely Hearts. Her first Theatre for Young Audiences play, The Early Bloomer, was produced by Concrete Theatre in their 2009/2010 season, and again in 2016. Her first full-length comedy, Going, Going, Gone, will premiere as part of Teatro la Quindicina’s 2017 season. In 2010, Jana was awarded one of seven 2010 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artist Awards for her work as a playwright. Jana was also awarded a prestigious Edmonton Artists Trust Fund award in 2016.