Beware the Ides of March: Leadership Lessons from the Bard

Beware the Ides of March: Leadership Lessons from the Bard


On this, the Ides of March,  we can learn three key lessons from the most famous, yet fatal, advice Julius Caesar is ever given: "Beware the ides of March."  

Caesar is the Big Boss — the Very Big Boss — among the most exceptional men who ever lived. Here, he's at the height of his awesome power. 

Having conquered yet more lands for Rome, he's given a ticker-tape parade. Then, some guy warns what's coming a few days hence: "Beware the ides of March!"  

Lesson One: Be Open to Bad News.

Caesar stops the parade, and asks for the source of such startling information. 

"What man is that?" he asks Cassius, his trusted but untrustworthy 'direct report.' 

As efficient staff, Cassius identifies the source, and repeats the big idea: "A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March." 

So far, very good. The messenger identified, the message confirmed.

Lesson Two: Evaluate For Yourself. 

As good as any staff may be, a top leader seeks key information directly from those who know most, and best. This assures that its transmission is not garbled, as in 'the telephone game.' 

Caesar says: "Set him before me. Let me see his face."  

As a young and inexperienced President, John F. Kennedy called up State Department desk officers — whoever was handling a hot-spot like the Congo or Laos — to get facts directly, before the inevitable distortion of information transmitted six layers up to a President.

"Let me see his face" shows that Caesar wants to take the measure of the man — to judge whether the source is reliable or not. In this case, it is reliable, regrettably so.

Cassius does what he's told. He grabs the guy out of the parade crowd: "Fellow, come from the throng. Look upon Caesar."

Set before him, Caesar asks the man to confirm the message: "What sayest to me now?"

He shouted something, almost anonymously, when  in "the throng." Will he repeat it, looking right in the eyes of the Very Big Boss?

He does. "Beware the ides of March!"

Lesson Three: Don't Summarily Shun Bad News. 

While showing good leadership skills thus far, Caesar now falters. He scrutinizes the soothsayer, and then dismisses him — perhaps as he looks disheveled. "He is a dreamer," Caesar makes the snap judgment. And then: "Let us leave him."

Leave him, he does. Caesar walks off. Soon he walks into the Senate, with knives quickly out for him on — you guessed it — the Ides of March.

Four Leadership Lessons on Love from Romeo and Juliet


People learn best through stories -- not from Power Points, or lists of "do's" and "don'ts." 

And the best stories ever told come from William Shakespeare, whose been at the top of the charts -- the veritable Oscar winner -- for four-plus centuries.  As they might say in Hollywood film circles, Shakespeare has legs. 

Hence on Valentine's Day 2017, when all eyes turn to the heart, let's look at the greatest racy romance ever written, Romeo and Juliet, to glean lessons from this heart-breaker.  

Here are my top four.

1.  Girls Rule.  Audiences consider the two stars of the show alike -- young, immature, swept away, troubled by overbearing (and -controlling) parents, ending tragically. 


While they share all this, equating them shortchanges Juliet.  Though shy of 14, she's more mature, the deeper thinker, better planner, and more intelligent, with a higher EQ (emotional intelligence) than Romeo. 

It's Juliet who fears their love is running way too fast.  It's Juliet who proposes marriage.  It's Juliet who maneuvers the escape from marrying her parents' pick (Paris).  It's Juliet who concocts a plan and weighs alternative scenarios, both quite beyond Romeo's ability. 

Finally, it's not Juliet but the leading men, Romeo and Friar Laurence, who mess everything up. 

2.  Cool down. In life, many situations arouse emotions -- office rivalries, negotiations, tuffs with the boss, slights from colleagues, insubordination from employees, extravagant demands from customers.  And some emotions are positive -- excitement about a great, new product or new challenge, a big event approaching, etc.  Yet whether negative karma or a positive charge, get a balance before taking a decision.  As Juliet forewarned,  “Violent delights have violent ends."

Rather, proceed, as Friar Laurence tells Romeo, “wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.” 

3. Delve Behind Appearances.  On stage or screen, the lovers are real lookers.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes -- who play "the star-crossed lovers" in the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet -- are eye candy.  The previous 1968 version by Zeffirelli, which won an Academy Award, had even more gorgeous kids.  Surely, Shakespeare expected as much. 

Nonetheless, he warns not to expect goodness from beauty.  Perceptions can deceive, as Juliet acknowledges “O serpent heart hid with a flowering face! Did ever a dragon keep so fair a cave?"  

And calling something beautiful does not inherently make it beautiful. Again, it's Juliet who comes up with the sensible thought: “What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” 

4.  Love Overwhelms and Conquers.  Romeo and Juliet do die tragically at the end.  And their story is among the saddest ever told. "For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” 

Nonetheless, their parents learn from them to bury their hatred and end the age-old family feuds.  And we learn the big lesson at this Valentine's week, perhaps the big lesson of life: That love does conquer. That love gives meaning to life.  That love makes life beautiful.

Last words go to, naturally, Juliet: “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep.  The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.”

Leadership Lessons from Hamlet may initially seem hard to come by

Leadership Lessons from Hamlet may initially seem hard to come by


But over the past 20 years, Movers & Shakespeares has taught corporations and educational institutions crisis management using the greatest play ever written, Hamlet.  The way the King handles a regime-threatening crisis, contrasted with the way Hamlet does not, furnishes solid lessons. which modern executives readily apply in their workaday world.  

Plus, there's the joy of team-building, with the executive team together experiencing the world's greatest actors ever -- from Sir Laurence Olivier to Richard Burton to Derek Jacobi to Kenneth Branagh -- in ten different videos, often showing the same scenes.  

This photo is of a recent session at the Aspen Institute with more than 70 executives learning lessons from, and having fun with, Hamlet.  The session was a big hit -- almost as big a hit as the play, which has been at the top of the charts for 415 years.