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Mythic Leadership and the Reality of Conflict: Shakespeare's Henry V and Coriolanus in Management Education


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Poulson, C and Hanson, D 2007 , 'Mythic Leadership and the Reality of Conflict: Shakespeare's Henry V and Coriolanus in Management Education', paper presented at the XXV Standing Conference on Organisational Symbolism, 1-4 July 2007, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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Using Shakespeare's Henry V as an exemplar of mythic, ideal leadership has become increasingly popular in management education. We will examine Henry V and compare his leadership to that of Shakespeare's Coriolanus (an exemplar of poor leadership?). Both engage the polity but in highly contrasting ways. We will argue that neither is ideal as both are rooted in power, glorifying war and conflict, and both suggest that great victories can be gained at little cost; war is used as a super-ordinate goal in an effort to deflect attention to the condition of the people and to shape cultural meaning. In addition the king twice issues orders in Shakespeare's Henry V to "kill all the prisoners", actions not included in the Branagh (1989) and Olivier (1944) film versions of the play that are those popularly used in management training at MIT, the University of Virginia and the popular workshops run by Lord Olivier's son Richard. We encourage caution in using Henry V in management education as Henry is more virtuous in Shakespearean myth than he was in reality.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Authors/Creators:Poulson, C and Hanson, D
Keywords: Shakespeare, Henry V, Coriolanus, Management Education, Leadership, Theatre, Conflict, Mythic Leadership
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