The great Bard's influence has always been broad and far-reaching, but his insightful commentary on all forms of power and politics in his plays has made William Shakespeare the current darling of the management theory set. Power Plays stands out as an interesting and useful look at what Shakespeare has to teach leaders about the use and abuse of power, the skills of communication and persuasion crucial to a leader's success in achieving objectives, and reconciling and balancing values and responsibilities.
The coauthoring duo of Whitney and Packer is effective. John Whitney, a professor at the Columbia Business School, former CEO, and veteran of corporate startup and turnaround ventures, combines his professional knowledge of the business arena and his personal love of Shakespeare's plays with the dramatic experience and analytical insight of Tina Packer, the founder and president of Massachusetts's thriving Shakespeare and Company. Much of Whitney and Packer's interpretive skill lies in their ability to do just that--interpret effectively. Rather than merely attaching the human strengths and weaknesses exemplified by Shakespearean characters to any and every corporate success or failure they can pull out of the bag, the authors conduct careful examinations of exactly what it is that the playwright is attempting to convey. Only after demonstrating a perceptive grasp of the underlying messages of the dramatic action do they then apply that insight to contemporary, real-life businesspeople and environments. The messages range from the seemingly obvious though often ignored comments on power--"Use It Wisely or Lose It"--to the subtle complexities surrounding the development of an Iago character bent on evil revenge. The applications include examples from the authors' own experiences, as well as touching briefly on those of leaders such as Katherine Graham at the Washington Post, Larry Bossidy at Allied Signal, and the business consultant Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Though not often extensive explorations on their own, together the messages and applications offer engaging, informative lessons for leaders and managers in any environment. --S. Ketchum