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Shakespeare's Lessons in Leadership: Hamlet



At my old English grammar school we were required to study one Shakespeare play per term. Over the course of 4 years or so, that amounted to 12 in total. And of course we were expected to remember and be able to recite particular verses, as Wes has done so earlier in this thread.

Some stick in your mind, especially when one is working in "quality" and "auditing".

As an example, Viola's shrewd summary of a particular character showing how well she could weigh-up people, an essential trait for leaders:

"This fellow's wise enough to play the fool,
And to do that craves a kind of wit.
He must observe their mood on whom he jests,
the quality of persons and the time,
And like the haggard check at every feather that comes before his eye.
This is a practice as full of labour as a wise man's art.
For folly that he wisely shows is fit,
But wise men folly fallen quite taint their wit."


Southern Gentleman
Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun


Ah, that floating dagger. I've seen it a number of times myself. If fact, it has morphed into a baseball bat, a .357, a bazooka, and other weapons as well, right before my eyes. They all beckon me. Thank God I've declined their offer. Then again, I didn't have the encouragement of three witches and a powerful wife to make me take the bait, either. I should correct that last statement: I have a powerful wife, but she's usually pointing the baseball bat, .357, and bazooka at me, not telling me to use them on anybody else.

Roxane and Wolfnature,

Yes, the whole NHL situation is pretty horrible. Hard heads all the way around. As long as the Beermasters and Brewery Owners don't cancel their season, I'll be okay, though. I can watch lady boxing with the right amount of beer. Actually, I kind of like lady boxing. Roxane, listen, your offspring are going to love your tapes of Lady Macbeth. The first step is to let your PUBLIC hear them. Your fans want your product! Don't disappoint all these poor souls. Don't be like the NHL...

Little Cee,

Thanks for your gracious and sweet feedback. I too am a product of the public schools...Cobb County, Georgia, public schools in fact! That's where they've put the stickers in science text books warning everyone that evolution is just a shaky theory. Oh, boy. I graduated a long time before all that stuff got stirred up, thank goodness. If this article held the interest of a smart person like you, then I definitely accomplished something. Did I really cause you to procrastinate?!? That's great! You come by Hamlet's thoughtful soul naturally. Me, I keep seeing those floating daggers that Macbeth and Wes saw. I'm up in Lumberton, NJ, tonight. Is that anywhere your part of Pennsylvania? It's about 11:30 PM now. I could be on your doorstep by 1 AM for sure.


Wow, what an incredible quote. Viola is a great example of a sharp Shakespearean gal. I don't know Twelfth Night very well, but I better add that to my list. Your grammar school must have been a very good one. It wasn't anywhere near Cobb County, GA, was it?

Cheers all!
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ccochran said:

Wow, what an incredible quote. Viola is a great example of a sharp Shakespearean gal. I don't know Twelfth Night very well, but I better add that to my list. Your grammar school must have been a very good one. It wasn't anywhere near Cobb County, GA, was it?

Craig, actually it was then known as Sutton County Grammar School in Sutton, Surrey, UK. That is about 11 miles south of London. The word "County" was dropped and the school has survived the ravages of political policy. It was a very good school: a national school, not fee paying. Entrance was by passing what was then known as the "11 plus" examination at the age of 11 years, administered by the educational authority.



Not to go off topic with the thread but I'm in the upper Northwest corner of Pennsylvania - right on Lake Erie (can see it from the correct window even) so I'd be a good 7(?) hours from crossing into NJ and then from there I'm not sure how where Lumberton is. I'm not "out East PA" as they say around here - sorry!

:topic: As for no NHL, one night I watched a Paper Rock Scissors championship on The Best D***ed Sports Show with Tom Arnold for a while before I realized it was for real and not a joke or a spoof. Sad, sad times we live in.

And I have a friend in Thomson, Georgia so I know a little about the Cobb County area where you're from.

Back ON topic, my girls are age 4 and 2. So someday when they get to the classics I hope to read them right along with them so we can all learn together. Won't that be fun???

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Good to be recognized

Good news, Craig! :applause: The article was insightful, a fresh perspective and quite worthy of such acknowledgement.


Southern Gentleman
Claes & Jennifer,

Thanks for the kind kudos. So far, the feedback on the article has been positive, though the piece is a little different from the usual fare in Quality Digest. I think people enjoy topics that are approached from novel angles, once they get past the initial reaction.

Hope you're having a nice weekend. The fireworks are crackling outside my window right now. Claes-- Is there an equivalent to Independence Day Weekend in Sweden, when everybody sets off obnoxious fireworks?

ccochran said:
Claes-- Is there an equivalent to Independence Day Weekend in Sweden, when everybody sets off obnoxious fireworks?
Not really. At least not to the same extent. We have our national day of course (June 6th), but our way of celebrating it is more tranquil.

Then there is Midsummer... :rolleyes: Many consider it our true national day, and at any rate I think that's when the swede really displays a wild streak. No fireworks, but a lot of partying and such :eek:.



I agree that Craig’s Article brings about some interesting points about Hamlet’s abilities as a leader. However…..

“A leader must take action based on credible information”

I my humble opinion to act on the sole word of a ghost would be more than flirting with insanity. He is in the process of collecting information. A play (reenactment) is performed. This not only drives Uncle/Stepfather Claudius out of the room, but on his knees in prayer. It is at this point that Uncle/Stepfather Claudius confesses to the murder. At this point what held Hamlet’s hand is more pettiness than inaction. Where would you like the murder of your father to end up in the afterlife? So, like a murder mystery Hamlet attempts to gather evidence to condemn his Uncle/Stepfather.

“A leader must mobilize people”

I must agree that Hamlet never really mobilizes or inspires. Horatio follows from a sense of loyalty. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, turn from him for money and promises from the King.
For mobilization in this play, one would have to look at Laertes as he brings a mob to kill the King and take over the crown. Yet, as is in all cases, there is more to the dynamic. Claudius turns Laertes away from this task and actually turns him toward the demise of Hamlet. It would seem that Laertes has a problem with staying focus.

“A leader must stay focused”

As is pointed out in this article we all at some point lose our focus and put tasks aside.

The first bullet point about “Hamlet’s flirts with insanity” may be a distraction. It was his method to gain time in a potential hostile environment to gather evidence about the true nature of his father’s death. From a historical point of view, being considered insane would protect you from direct attack and as such is being used by Hamlet to gather information.

For the first bullet point would not the “Family Dynamic” be considered as a distraction? You have a dead father, Uncle/Stepfather Claudius, and a mother who married within a month of the death of her first husband. This alone should cause some problems. On top of that, the ghost calls on Hamlet to avenge him by killing Uncle/Stepfather Claudius and though the mother may have also been involved in the murder not to kill her. At this point in history, poison was considered the weapon of choice among the fairer sex. It could be that Shakespeare was pointing out the level of Claudius’ cowardice.

The next two bullet points, I really have no opinion other than already stated concerning the one.
The four bullet point, I may have for my own piece of mind and pettiness change the Frat brothers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from the title of meddler to “suck up” or “brown nosers”. They are more interested in gaining the King’s favor than to stand by the friend Hamlet. It is only when Hamlet calls upon "by the rites of our fellowship", that you are sure these two tell the truth. From a pettiness point, it is nice to think that suck-ups have tragic end. This would have to go for Polonius.

The last bullet point seems to be about the duel. It is at this point that Hamlet feels he has the evidence needed to present to the Court about his Uncle/Stepfather Claudius. He is seeking a venue to present it. This venue in front of the whole court could be considered a sort of an old equivalent of a Board room meeting.

As a Craig points that Hamlet’s evidence gathering and procrastination, dos lead to disaster. For Horatio is the one to point out the King’s doings and the justification of Hamlet to kill the King. Yet, at this point is leaves Denmark open for a possible hostile takeover by Fortinbras.

“A leader must be wary of competitors”

This is true, even when you supply your competitor. However….
Should a leader have a sense of justice? Laertes has just lost his father and his sister has died under questionable circumstances all of which can be laid at Hamlet’s feet. When a leader has done wrong, what should they do to make amends? In Hamlet’s case, he agrees to a duel that will also serve his reason for returning to Denmark. For others, it may be after a ridiculously long prison sentence, to turn State’s evidence to at least reduce the sentence.

Though probably that is an article about the virtues of Hamlet as a leader, while still pointing out that procrastination does lead to negative outcomes or an overall failure to achieve the objective.
"... What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Is but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more. -- Hamlet"

Overall, a very good article that provides food for thought. :applause:
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