Industrial Engineer | Bard in Charge

By Monica Elliott

When Marc Antony spoke at Caesar's funeral, the power of his words swayed the crowd, but it was the timing of his oratory that really won them over. By saving his appeal for last, Antony managed to stir up his friends, Romans, and countrymen against Brutus and Caesar's other assassins and gain support for his own agenda, which, fortunately, was the morally correct one.

Their diverse client lists includes the U.S. Air Force, Wharton Business School, McKinsey, and McGraw-Hill, but most of their clients are engineers. In fact, their biggest client is Northrop Grumman, and for Ken Adelman, it's not hard to guess why the Shakespearean approach is such a good fit for engineering management.

"First of all, they love it because they love problem solving. Engineers love to figure something out, and Shakespeare gives them something to exercise their brains," he says.

Adelman knows a little something about advising leaders on strategy, having served as President Ronald Reagan's chief advisor on arms control. But Adelman admits that even though he as taught Shakespeare courses at universities, he has never been trained in literature and is more a Shakespearean enthusiast than a true scholar. He and his wife concentrate primarily on the leadership lessons within the plays, for example, examining the character of Hamlet in the context of crisis management - what Hamlet did wrong, what Claudius did right.

"We're not in the business of teaching Shakespeare; we teach leadership," Adelman explains.

So what plays does the instructor recommend? "Henry V is probably the best starter. Merchant of Venice is great for a follow-on or Juilus Caesar - Merchant of Venice about risk taking and diversity, Julius Caesar about communication and planning."

Because the language in the plays has been known to frustrate even the most apt pupil, the instructors rely heavily on sundry film versions of the plays to bring their lessons to life. They set up a scene, show it, and then discuss it. Students engage in breakout sessions so that they can relate what they are learning to their own businesses. And at the end of the training course, students have an opportunity to dress up in costumes and inhabit some of the Bard's famous characters.

The fact that companies keep sending their executives to Movers and Shakespeares speaks to the effectiveness of these techniques, but Adelman pinpoints three reasons that the true draw is Shakespeare as an arbiter of leadership savvy: "e had the greatest insights into human history, and all life depends on sizing people up, knowing how to motivate them, knowing how to bring out the best in people. Second, he told stories, and people learn more through stories than they do through PowerPoint presentations or do's and don'ts. And three, he's the greatest [at] language, and leadership is about language."

Ambition can be made of no sterner stuff.

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