Shakespeare: leadership conceptualization

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There is no doubt that Shakespeare has had the opportunity to influence or affect literature more than other writers in the history of humanity. Based on this argument, William Shakespeare has been able to foster an image of an acclaimed playwright, as well as one of the greatest psychologists across the universe. Notably, Shakespeare focused on the utilization of the immortal heroes with the objective of demonstrating leadership practices and attributes for the managers and executives. It is possible for the managers and executives to use these immortal heroes in the discovery of the leadership strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of this research paper is to evaluate the conceptualization of kingship while discussing Hamlet in Hamlet, Prince Henry in Henry IV, part I, and Richard in Richard II.

Hamlet in Hamlet

In the development of this play, Hamlet, Shakespeare focused on the utilization of Hamlet’s character as the Prince of Denmark. Hamlet is the lead or title character, thus, the protagonist. At the beginning of the play, Hamlet is about 30-years-old as the son of Queen Gertrude, as well as the late King Hamlet and the eventual nephew to the present king, Claudius. It is essential to note that as an individual Hamlet comes out as bitter, cynical, and melancholy, thus, the tendency to demonstrate hate regarding his uncle’s scheming while depicting disgust of her mother’s sexuality. Hamlet proves to be a thoughtful and reflective individual who had the opportunity to study at the University of Wittenberg. Nonetheless, Hamlet had the opportunity to demonstrate indecisiveness and hesitancy in the decision-making in spite of illustrating vulnerability to rash, as well as impulsive actions.

Hamlet comes out as one of the most popular characters in Shakespeare’s plays. There seems to be something in Hamlet, which plays a critical role in resonating with humanity. This relates to the concept of failure relating fear of failure or success. Hamlet seems to be aware of the larger picture, which paralyzes his character. Based on the presentation of Hamlet in the development of this play, it is possible to conceptualize Shakespeare’s ideas on the essence of leadership.

Shakespeare focuses on the presentation of the flawed hero through utilization of Hamlet’s character in the development of the plot and thematic issues of the play. I believe that Hamlet’s character plays a critical role in reaching us on various issues concerning the concept of leadership in agreement with his behavior as a prince. One of the critical lessons on leadership from this play is the principle for the leader to take substantive actions in agreement with the credible information (Bharadwaj 164). In the play, Hamlet engages in learning about what he must do but spends the remainder of the play in avoiding the inevitable. Hamlet fails to demonstrate the knowledge on how to go about executing his responsibility.

Hamlet failed to develop any strategic plan for the leadership position. Evidently, the character sought to fret while executing nothing. From a leadership perspective, it is ideal to document the fact that the character is paralyzed. It is critical for the leaders to avoid this condition at all costs. In the crisis, leaders have an obligation to choose one of the alternatives at their disposal, thus, the platform to take action or seek more, as well as better information on tackling the situation at hand. In spite of these duties and responsibilities, Hamlet fails to execute neither. It might be possible to argue that Hamlet’s source of information, being a ghost, was far-fetched. Nonetheless, it is ideal to note that many people did see the ghost, thus, lack of hallucination in the credible statement by the ghost with the intention of reflecting an intimate knowledge of the events surrounding murder of his father.

Another critical leadership lesson in this play is the need for the leader to engage in mobilizing people. It is impossible for the leaders to do it alone, thus, the obligation to work with others in pursuit of the collective goals and targets at the end of each operational period. In the achievement of this goal, leaders need to offer the overall objectives, as well as motivations, which contribute to the competitive contributions by the members of the team or organization or society in question (Bharadwaj 167). In the case of Hamlet, I believe that he fails to assemble the team to enable the execution of the objectives. This limits his leadership abilities as a crusader of the people in pursuit of the collective goals and targets.

Similarly, Shakespeare utilizes Hamlet to demonstrate the need for the leaders to remain focused in the achievement and realization of the goals and targets of the society. Evidently, great leaders have the tendency to demonstrate efficiency in focus. Hamlet can attract other forces from the society based on his inability to demonstrate the desired focus, thus, incapable of overcoming various distractions and executing important functions or tasks. Some examples of lack of focus in the development of the plot of this play include flirting with insanity, passing on the opportunity to kill Claudius, hiding a corpse, arranging the death of two meddlers, and eventual engagement in the fencing match, which proves to be fatal.

Prince Henry in Henry IV, Part I

In the play, Shakespeare focuses on the integration of Prince Harry as King Henry IV’s son who would eventually become King Henry V. He adopts and inherits the title as the Prince of Wales. All of his friends tend to call him Hal. In most cases, he focuses on spending substantive time with highwaymen, as well as whores and robbers. In spite of this, Harry tends to have substantive plans to foster effective transformation into a noble prince. As the play unfolds, the reader of the play has the platform to oversee the emergence of the regal qualities of this character in articulating the thematic issues in the literary platform. He comes out as the closest thing to being the protagonist of the play based on the focus of his complexity, as well as an impressive mind making the focal point for the development of the play. Nonetheless, it is possible to highlight the essence of ambiguity in Shakespeare’s approach in the simultaneous illustration of the heroic, as well as heroic attributes of the young prince.

It is essential to note that Shakespeare sets the play in the midst of political instability, as well as violent rebellion, thus, the platform for the integration of the idea of the governorship. This highlights the questions of making a legitimate leader or ruler, thus, the platform for the illustration of the desirable qualities or attributes to lead in the society. Moreover, the play integrates instances in which it is acceptable to usurp the ruler’s authority and the subsequent implications of rebellion against the legitimate ruler. The play documents the concept of legitimate rule in the midst of the element of rebellion. For instance, the play illustrates the acceptance of usurping the power of the leader when he or she is illegitimate. This is evident in the approach by Hotspur and Percy to usurp King Henry.

I believe that there is diversity in the criteria for the legitimization of the leader. Nonetheless, it is appropriate to attribute legitimacy of the rule to the will of the people, as well as the will of God. In the case of Prince Henry, Shakespeare focuses on the presentation of the element of collectivism among the leaders. It is appropriate for the leader to have access to each to facilitate the achievement of the collective goals and targets. For instance, in spite of being the potential heir to the throne, the prince does not isolate his image from others, especially the marginalized in the society. This creates the opportunity for the leaders to interact with the target audiences while depicting appropriate leadership qualities for the benefits of the society members. In this aspect, the prince tends to highlight and conceptualize the role of the leader in mobilizing all entities and individuals to operate towards one direction in the achievement of the goals and targets. Similarly, the concept leadership in this play relates to the influence of honor. It is obligatory for the leader to pursue honor based on the legitimacy of the rule or leadership position. The play applies and demonstrates the traits of Machiavellian leaders. For instance, such leaders are duplicitous, cunning, narcissistic, justifying the means by ends; conceptualizing the bigger picture, demonstrating competence in controlling and manipulation, and the desire for love.

Richard in Richard II

In the development of Richard II, Shakespeare focused on questioning the making of a king. The play conceptualizes Richard as a self-absorbed ruler. This is through depicting the act of Richard to inhabit the world of words. In the creation and presentation of the play, the author highlights the pathological narcissistic nature of Richard in the midst of consistent violent mood swings. Richard’s life comes out as a performance in which he can execute the role of the leader actor, as well as the primary audience. I believe that Richard is a terrible king in the play based on his self-absorption attribute leading him to act with no sense of the implications or consequences.

Richard tends to have one uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, Thomas Woodstock, who loses his life before he engages in seizing the land of another uncle in the form of John of Gaunt upon his death. In the illustration of his ineffective leadership attributes, Richard focused on the documentation of the right to increase or generate taxes to the fawning coterie of the sycophants aiming at enabling him to bolster the self-delusions. Furthermore, Richard, as a leader, lacks the desired authority to command. This is highly evident in his failure to settle the deadly quarrel between Bolingbroke and Thomas. Bolingbroke did prove to be Richard’s nemesis in the development of the play being the son of John of Gaunt.

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Unlike great leaders, Richard has the tendency to retreat into rhetoric when he starts to feel the reality snapping his heels. The play focuses on the examination or exploration of the nature of leadership. From this perspective, various characters in the development of the play believe on the bestowment of the crown by God (Etzold 66). For instance, the Duke of York, in the play, highlights the fact that only God has the opportunity and the right to judge the king before shifting or transforming this perception in with the objective of offering support to usurper Bolingbroke. For the case of Richard, the utilization of the divine character of governance provides the platform for conceit for retreat against the issue of reality.

From the assessment of the plays by Shakespeare, I believe that managing organizations was a challenge in the era of the plays. In the plays mentioned above, kings, queens, lords, and dukes had the opportunity to come out as leaders leading subordinates successfully while experiencing miserable failure in certain instances. Notably, most of the plays by Shakespeare focus on the illustration of stories concerning leadership rather than romantic love. In the development and presentation of the plays, Shakespeare focused on tackling his growing distress on the concept of autocratic leadership style. The playwright focused on the utilization of different techniques in the assessment of the leadership issues in the traditional or ancient era.

For instance, the plays document cases of leaders who are capable of losing their lives for the positions within the society. I have been able to highlight the ironical approach in which Shakespeare uses in the illustration of the leadership issues and elements in the society. In spite of different presentation approaches or mechanisms, Shakespeare focused on the utilization of the values, which are common for the leaders in the society, as well as organizational contexts (Etzold 68). For instance, such leaders should be able to mobilize the subordinates while remaining focused on the adoption and implementation of the different strategies in the achievement of the desired goals and targets.

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  1. Bharadwaj, Apoorva, “Shakespeare on Leadership, Communication and Management: Implications for Cross-cultural Business Contexts.” Journal of Creative Communications 9.2 (2014): 161-184.
  2. Etzold, Veit, “Power plays: What Shakespeare can teach on leadership.” Business Strategy Series 13.2 (2012): 63-69.
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