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Power Plays

Power Plays

Shakespeare's Lessons in Leadership and Management

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  • customer reviews
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.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743242127 | 
  • May 2002
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Power Is a Freighted Idea

Understand It Before You Use It

How sweet a thing it is to wear a crown...

Richard in King Henry VI, Part 3 (1.2, 29)


Power! Shakespeare! Few would put these two words together. For if you want to understand power -- how to get it, how to keep it, what to do when you have it, and how you lose it -- then Shakespeare is your man. Power is a central theme in many of his plays. No writer ever portrayed the ambiguities, trappings, dangers, and blessings of power better than Shakespeare. He shows us how power is passed down through the generations. For instance,... see more

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 see more

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