What does Shakespeare say about leadership?

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Shakespeare says a great deal about leadership actually.  Our minds typically go to love and romance vs. leading enterprises when we think of Shakespeare.  Yet, when you look at the masterful English literature and the metaphors you catch a glimpse into some important lessons about leadership.  I thought I would outline a few of those ideas here with three of my favorite Shakespearian quotations.

Lesson #1:  Be True To Yourself

From Shakespeare: “This above all: To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day,  Thou canst not then be false to any man.” (Hamlet, 1.iii, p.78)

a. One temptation for a leader is maneuvering yourself to somehow please everyone.  As Polonius urges Laertes, this is a waste of time and quite ineffective.

b. Trust your instincts and be who you are.

c. Take a stand vs. standing on the line.

Lesson #2: Certain Situations Necessitate A Different Approach

From Shakespeare: “All the word’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players:” As You Like It Act II Scene VII.

a. You would never use a screw drive to hammer in a nail. Pick the right tool for the right job and utilize the right strength.  Sometimes we overuse our strengths.

b. Authenticity is better than inauthentic.  Why? You will wear yourself out and create huge amounts of anxiety and stress pushing toward your inauthentic self.

c. Life is not an audition for something else.  This is it.

Lesson #3: It’s about them, not you.

From Shakespeare: “My crown is in my heart, not on my head; Not decked with diamonds and Indian stones, Nor to be seen.  My crown is called content: A crown it is that seldom kings enjoy.” Henry the VI Pt. III Act III Scene I.

a. Implied in this great quote from Henry the VI is the idea that this king is here to serve for the purpose of others not for his or her own benefit.

b. There is a “settling in” feel to this quote.  The king has settled in and is accepting of who they are as a leader.  A rarity in today’s environment of inauthentic, self-centered and distressed business culture.

c. Leaders you are really there to serve others.  Not yourself!

At the end of the day, your leadership is a journey to be traveled with a sense of purpose and authenticity. Anything else would be considered imprisonment and lacking life.  You may be showing symptoms that are not congruent with who you really are. Shakespeare tried to communicate that many times to his audience.