The post-lunch session on ‘Leadership Lessons from Shakespeare’ on the first day of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit was conducted by Shakespeare-wallahs, former US government officials Kenneth and Carol Adelman. In a departure from the usual session format, they showed three film clips based on William Shakespeare’s plays and then discussed the lessons learnt from them.
The first was the advice given by Polonius in Hamlet about keeping wise counsel; the second was Portia’s plea for mercy to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice; and the last was Henry V’s rousing speech before the Battle of Agincourt in Henry V.
The crowd seemed most taken with the clip from Hamlet where Polonius is seen telling his son Laertes “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice”.
Another delegate wondered aloud whether, like Henry before the battle, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi could turn the current political crisis into an opportunity.
Kenneth, who did three stints as a foreign service official under the former US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld, first supported the Iraq war and then became disillusioned with it.
Was there a lesson from the English bard that came to mind while looking at the mess created by his ex-boss?
“Yes, one from Hamlet,” replied Kenneth without hesitation.
“It’s when Claudius says, ‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions’.”