Writing Series D

Writing Series D contains academic dissertations and articles that is in line with the interests of the Research Group INTRA.



Julia Romanowska at Munktell Science Park, Eskilstuna 2015

Improving leadership through the power of words and music

Thesis for doctoral degree Karolinska Institutet 2014-10-08

Julia Romanowska


Background. Poor leadership is highly prevalent and associated with destructive processes in the workplace, including stress related ill health. Yet, the applied methods to improve leadership practices are rarely grounded in scientific research. The aim of this thesis is to test the effects of an art-based, yearlong leadership programme (Shibboleth) in comparison with a conventional programme. The Shibboleth concept was built upon a performance art, a collage of fragments of literary text and music, followed by writing sessions and group reflection.

Hypotheses. I Effect on leaders: Demanding art experiences were expected to force self-critical examination and break ingrained patterns of thinking and feeling, providing sharper self-awareness and awareness of moral responsibility, and mobilize courage to take stand and act in highly complex, unaccustomed and painful circumstances; II Effect on employees: The changes in the leaders’ responsibility were, in turn, expected to activate positive changes in the co-workers, reflected not only in their psychological health, but also in biological processes/endocrine status.

Method and Results. In study I transferred effects of the leaders’ participation in the intervention program on their co-workers’ psychosocial and biological stress were investigated. The findings demonstrate improved mental health, enhanced self-esteem and courage to openly deal with unfair treatment as well as a higher concentration of the regenerative hormone DHEA-S in the attending leaders’ co-workers, as well as in the leaders themselves, compared to the conventional group.

In study II effects on the leaders’ intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects associated with poor leadership were explored. The findings demonstrate improved pro-social motivation (Agreeableness) and psychological resilience (Sense of Coherence) in the Shibboleth leaders, who were also considered by their co-workers to be more responsible (behaving less laissez-faire) and display higher capacity to cope with stress, compared to the conventional group.

In study III we examined whether the changes in leaders’ behaviour were confirmed by corresponding changes in the level of self-awareness. Comparisons between leader’s self-evaluation and the evaluative feed- back of the co-workers demonstrate that the Shibboleth leaders abandoned the self-inflating position in favour of increased self-awareness and humility, which in turn was followed by improved behaviour. The opposite result was noted in the conventional group. In study IV the psychological processes taking place in the individual leader during the Shibboleth intervention were studied based upon written reflections during sessions, “course” evaluations and interviews using a qualitative method. The findings show that the participants experienced Shibboleth as a transformative power. The Shibboleth’s content and artistic technique was perceived as especially challenging and affecting in a way they had not experienced before. The leaders described their journey from the desire of affirmation of the self and one’s own interest towards a more open position trying to understand a world other than one’s own by adopting an aesthemetic approach (a combination of aesthetic, emotional and ethic elements). They experienced a new consciousness they never felt before to assume responsibility for others, for themselves and for their leadership, which also raised their sense of self–esteem and feeling of reverence and gratitude for life. Long after the intervention ended, the etched memory images of Shibboleth worked as moral guidance in different situations. The findings are discussed in relation to the notion of aesthemetic, which is introduced for conceptualisation of the impact core that constitutes the Shibboleth concept.

Conclusion. A transformative effect of a new, art-based leadership concept on the leaders and transferred beneficial effect on their co-workers was demonstrated. The findings indicate that the Shibboleth concept, by counteracting the destructivity of poor leadership, may prevent stress related ill health. The findings seem to be sustained and more pronounced at the long-term follow-up. The positive results for psychological, behavioural and biological outcomes are consistent and strengthen the findings. This is the first research to show that changes in behaviours in leaders through aesthetic experiences can have transferred effects on psychological and neurobiological resilience processes in followers leading to health-promoting effects. In addition to the empirical findings, this thesis presents a general theoretical approach through the notion of aesthemetics, which may help to clarify the underlying conditions for successful training programmes in general.



Improving leadership through the power of words and music.

Thesis for doctoral degree Karolinska Institutet 2014-10-08

Julia Romanowska, Translation and summary into Swedish – Per Apelmo 2015


This publication is only available in Swedish as it is a translation of D1 by Per Apelmo. About the translation he writes: In my reading of Julia Romanowskas doctoral thesis, I was moved on many levels. To me, the thesis is a well-crafted and important example of the value of working with aesthetic forms of expressions. Because of this, I chose to translate parts of the thesis from English to Swedish. In this way, the material becomes more accessible in a Nordic context. The translation is written so that the reader is able to see which parts I translated and which parts I put aside. In my work, I rather focus on results than the formal academic parts that belongs to a thesis. The translation is read and approved by Julia Romanowska.



Repatriation and Testimony

Expressive Arts Therapy

by Melinda Ashley Meyer DeMott 2007


The subject of this dissertation is research work and psychosocial interventions carried out through movement programs, repatriation workshops, documentary filmmaking and testimony with twenty-two Bosnian refugees over thirteen years. This longitude study is an investigation of the process of the change of identities that the refugees experienced from the time when they were expatriated to Norway until they were resettled in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The focus of the study is their own narratives of the different transitions and interventions they took part in as war refugees, and what influenced their decision to repatriate to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The researcher has followed the participants through interviews and video documentation from 1993 to 2006. In addition to repatriation, documentary filmmaking and testimony are central themes in the inquiry.

The participants are from four Bosnian families and consist of thirteen adults and four children. Interviews and conversations with and observations of the participants will be presented and discussed. The analysis of the material has been an ongoing process and has not been limited to any specific period in the thirteen-year research span.

Melinda Ashley Meyer DeMott works at the Norwegian Institute NIKUT.no