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To Lead or Not to Lead?


Power Plays
by John O. Whitney and Tina Packer
Simon and Schuster, 2000, 316 pages, $26

A number of recent business books attempt to pull leadership and management "wisdom" from a variety of historicalpersonages, including Jesus Christ, Ulysses S. Grant, and even W.C. Fields. While the applicability of such wisdom cansometimes be a stretch (especially when it involves a curmudgeonly vaudevillian), Power Plays deserves special mention.

Based on Columbia Business School professor John Whitney's popular Shakespeare and Leadership course, it features suchchapter titles as "Banish Not Your Jack Falstaff" (on the value of mavericks) and "The Skipping King" (on the abuse ofexecutive perks and privileges). In one chapter, the authors use W. Edwards Deming's well-known "PDSA cycle" (plan, do,study, act) to show why Hamlet fails (he planned little and didn't act on what he learned), while founder JeffBezos's ability to plan, act, and learn has allowed him to break new ground while managing the risk.

Leaders will find plenty of important lessons here (example: how to avoid Othello's mistake in making enemies out of trustedlieutenants), not to mention an opportunity to revisit the Bard's vast gallery of fascinating protagonists.

Copyright © 1999 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

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