Power Plays

Shakespeare's Lessons in Leadership and Management

About The Book

The issues fueling the intricate plots of Shakespeare's four-hundred-year-old plays are the same common, yet complex issues that business leaders contend with today. And, as John Whitney and Tina Packer so convincingly demonstrate, no one but the Bard himself can penetrate the secrets of leadership with such piercing brilliance. Let him instruct you on the issues that managers face every day:

  • Power: Richard II's fall from power can enlighten us.
  • Trust: Draw on the experiences of King Lear and Othello.
  • Decision: Hamlet illustrates the dos and don'ts of decision making.
  • Action: See why Henry IV was effective and Henry VI was not.

Whitney and Packer do not simply compare Shakespeare's plays with management techniques, instead they draw on their own wealth of business experience to show us how these essential Shakespearean lessons can be applied to modern-day challenges. Power Plays infuses the world of business with new life -- and plenty of drama.

Reading Group Guide
Discussion Questions
1. Power is relative to time, place and situation. Describe a current event or one of your own organizational experiences to demonstrate this point. (Chapter 1)
2. Most of us have, at some time in our careers, been promoted or transferred to a new position. What things does Shakespeare show us about the reactions of others that we need to be aware of and to manage? (Chapter 2)
3. The relationship between the leader and his or her direct reports is often the key to organizational success. Describe in your own words how that relationship should be developed and managed. (Chapter 3)
4. How does one distinguish the trappings of power (perks and pay) that are essential to the organization, from those that are non-essential, sometimes frivolous? Why should bosses be paid more than subordinates? Is the corporate jet ever justifiable? (Chapter 4)
5. What do we mean by the statement, "Complete communication is chaos"? How does one direct communication and what devices does one use to persuade others? What is the importance of listening in the communications model? (Chapters 6 and 7)
6. Frank Sinatra sang, "I did it my way." Shakespeare's Polonius said, "To thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man...." Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string..." What do these statements mean to you? Do you see any anomalies? (Chapter 8)
7. Is it all right to announce new plant capacity (when you know you do not plan to build it) in order to dissuade your competitors from building capacity of their own? When is deception appropriate? When is it disastrous? (Chapter 9)
8. What is the role of mavericks in organizations? When and how should they be supported? When and how should they be banished? (Chapter 10)
9. What does the following statement mean to you? "An effective strategy is grounded in a set of realistic beliefs and expectations about our external worlds that helps us to know what to do and how to do it, while making certain that we have the resources and will to carry it out." (Chapter 11)
Product Details
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 2002)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743242127

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Raves and Reviews

Fred Andrews The New York Times A pleasurable and instructive book. They give us an engaging testament on practicality and morality in business, richly illuminated by instances from Shakespeare, all expertly dissected.

Cecil Johnson The San Diego Union-Tribune Power Plays should be on the reading list of every corporate leader, every person who aspires to be one, and everyone who wants to find his or her niche within a corporate pyramid and be an effective member of the team.

Robert W. Lear Chief Executive Marvelous...does a superb job of analyzing and interpreting Shakespeare's writing and correlating his observations to modern business leaders.

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