Shakespeare: 10 quotes that will make you a better leader

December 3, 2012, 4:27 pm Erika Andersen Forbes

Timeless wisdom from the bard that will help you to be a better leader.


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There are so many wise people, down through the years, who have said things that – if we took them seriously – would support us to be better leaders... and, actually, better humans.

And as I reflected on this, I thought of Shakespeare, one of the most accurate and insightful people of all time in terms of understanding the human condition. Whether or not you’re a fan of the bard, he wrote many lines of truly timeless wisdom that directly support our efforts to be good and worthy leaders. Here are my top ten favorites:

On passion: “To business that we love we rise betimes, and go to’t with delight.”

On taking smart risks: “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

On trustworthiness: “The purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation—that away, Men are but gilded loam, or painted clay.”

On resilience: “Wise men ne’er sit and wail their loss, but cheerily seek how to redress their harms.”

On vision and strategy: “See first that the design is wise and just; that ascertained, pursue it resolutely.”

On authenticity: “This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

On wisdom: “There is no darkness but ignorance.”

On self-confidence: “Our doubts are traitors and cause us to miss the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

On earning respect: “Let none presume to wear an undeserved dignity.”

On optimism: “True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings. Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.”

The longer I live, the more I notice that the world offers me nearly endless sources of inspiration and clarity every day. Or, in Shakespeare’s own words, “A right judgement draws us a profit from all things we see.”

Erika’s latest book, Leading So People Will Follow, is available everywhere books are sold. Booklist called it “a book to read more than once and to consult many times.”

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