Shakespeare’s writings hold profound lessons and while there is enough material in his writings for several leadership articles. here are some powerful lessons we can learn from him.
1. No one is indispensable
Many companies build a myth of indispensability around some of their key managers. Indeed, so many of us feel we are so indispensable that we even hesitate to go on a long vacation. Shakespeare shatters this myth totally with these evocative words from As You Like It:
We need to recognize that in the larger scheme of things, companies are also stages, and we are merely actors on these stages for a period of time. Each of us will have our entrances and exits, and the next edition of the play will then go on. We will, of course, strut our stuff on our corporate stages each day, and we should do so to the best of our abilities—but we should never mistake the applause when the curtain comes down as a testament to our indispensability.
2. Listen before you speak
In general, we tend to be poor listeners. We generally love speaking—primarily about ourselves, our achievements and vision. These days, we also hold forth generously about our views on new-age topics such as e-commerce, gender diversity, cultural sensitivity etc. Therefore, Shakespeare’s advice to us on listening, and not speaking too much, is invaluable.
He tells this to us in Hamlet. He is cautioning us here to think before we speak, to keep our thoughts to ourselves and only talk when necessary. Shakespeare goes on to say, also in Hamlet,
He emphasized the importance of listening to people within organizations. Unless we listen carefully to others, and to those around us, how will we ever learn?
3. Inspiration can move mountains
Shakespeare’s plays are replete with powerful examples of how inspiring leaders can lead their teams towards achieving the impossible. The most memorable example of this is the brilliant speech delivered by King Henry V (in the play with the same name), in the battlefield scene at Agincourt, where he rallies his tired and demoralized English troops against the might of a much larger, highly armoured and skilled French army. Every corporate leader should read and imbibe this stirring address, because it remains to this day the finest dramatic interpretation of what inspiring leadership means, even under the most adverse circumstances. Here are just a few lines from Henry V to whet your appetite:
The English soldiers, roused by their magnificent leader, went on to win the battle, against impossible odds.
The simple message from Shakespeare:
Leaders have to inspire their teams, particularly when the chips are down.