Shakespearean drama is leading the corporate way

Hamlet was one messed up guy, but Janus Global Consulting Inc. still thinks he has something to teach the corporate world. The company is using the works of William Shakespeare to inspire business leaders through its Dramatic Leadership Lessons.

It began as a pilot project last fall at Stratford, Ont., and is now set to enter into its second year. The Toronto-based consulting company decided to use the works of Shakespeare to educate managers in leadership by using plays in a to get its message across.

“With our program, you come out with a much deeper understanding of yourself and your leadership strengths. [We] involve the mind, body and heart,” said Felicity Somerset, partner at Janus. She said what makes the program successful is taking the universal themes in Shakespeare’s works and applying them to the challenges of leadership. She approached Stratford with the idea of marrying the corporate and art worlds two years ago, and they agreed to partner with the consulting company.

The sessions also focus on how to deal with complexities and dilemmas and accomplish this objective by using Elizabethan language as a means of inspiration. “In Henry V, he (Henry) has to lead his troops into battle, where he makes these wonderful speeches. It can be used in the same idea in leading your company…It speaks to the leaders today.”

Somerset compared the director of a play to a project leader by saying the former needs to deliver the play on time and on budget, and by supplanting the idea of a play with a typical business project, the same holds true.

While the workshops are barely out of the infancy stage, the response has been positive.

“On a personal level, it was totally enjoyable. It had practical implications immediately in the way I do my job,” said Michelle Wales, director of Canadian operations, Aquent Inc., in Toronto. She said that while some colleagues have turned to Sun Tsu’s The Art of War for inspiration, Shakespeare’s characters spoke to her more directly. She addressed the importance of the dramatic aspects of using voice, eye contact and posture.

As a team, they produced a scene from Hamlet and reproduced it in a modern situation, turning it into a high-tech take-over. She said using her artistic side brought out the human elements, which is valuable in how you interrelate. “The question then is how you deliver if you’re in a meeting of managers, how you deliver your lines…I found some interesting parallels.”

Pat Quigley, education manager at Stratford said a typical problem with leaders is the tendency not to look at the whole person, and to approach their jobs from an intellectual perspective. “They’re used to working with their brains and minds extensively and understanding leadership that way, but not looking at their body, particularly how their voices play into their roles as leaders.”

She said the very concept that Shakespeare is writing about leadership facilitates a fresh way of looking at the ideas of leadership strategies by going through the door of a play.

And when asked about overlapping the worlds of art and business, Quigley said there are more similarities than contradictions. “At first glance, they may seem to be juxtaposed. But really, leaders need to have some of the same skills as actors. Leaders in business need to consider themselves public speakers and charismatic to a certain extend, and be creative in their approach to thinking imaginatively.”

The Dramatic Leadership Lessons will take place in October. A three day program costs $2,275 and the five day $3,450. For additional information, visit