What can we learn about leadership from Shakespeare? You might think the question absurd. You might think that today’s world is so far different from Shakespeare’s that questions of leadership drawn from that distant past can have only a passing relevance to our modern democracies.
Shakespeare talks about nobility, kingship and virtue. All of these terms are dubious today. Who really believes that the concept “noble” makes any sense today? There may be some old relics who hang on to the idea that the Royal Family is noble in a sense deeper than mere accident of birth, but I imagine they would feel faintly ridiculous if they put that feeling into words.
Shakespeare, however, is not like some wise old man with sage opinions. The great merit of reading Shakespeare is that you enter the world of his characters: you do not learn much about what Shakespeare thought. This is why fridge magnet quotations from the Bard are pointless. This is why it is a good idea to sit down and read a play from beginning to end.
That is what we do in the Mountains. We read the plays through without interruptions. And then we eat good food and go for a walk. The next day we read another. Five plays in five days. Five days to reflect on the characters in Shakespeare and what they tell us about leadership.
Shakespeare is not going to tell you how to be a leader. You have to decide that for yourself. What he does and does brilliantly is show us how characters interact in situations and how those situations develop through time. We can really get our teeth into that, can’t we?