Summary of Inspirational Leadership

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Inspirational Leadership book summary

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Richard Olivier, the son of the legendary actor and director Laurence Olivier, presents Shakespeare’s Henry V as a case study about leadership. The author, also a theatre director and a leadership development consultant, uses scenes and dialogue from the play to illustrate the difficulties King Henry faced as he assumed the throne of England, learned to command, dealt with his inner conflicts, rallied his men and led them to a historic victory over the French at Agincourt. Olivier, who also offers leadership examples from his consulting practice, sometimes seems to blur his focus. Still, his knowledge of the play is extraordinary and his unusual perspectives on leadership’s processes and perils will remind leaders that nothing serves them as well as hard-won self-knowledge. You needn’t know Henry V to benefit from Olivier’s insights. As he says, “This is a book about leadership, not about Shakespeare.” So, even if Shakespeare is just a vague high-school memory, you can still make use of the author’s insights. And if you love Shakespeare, you’ll have a good time. getAbstract recommends Olivier’s lessons (and Shakespeare’s) to aspiring, emerging and seasoned leaders, as well as to actors and literature teachers.

About the Author

Artistic Director and founder of Olivier Mythodrama, Richard Olivier is an Assistant Fellow of Saïd Business School at Oxford. He speaks and consults on bringing theater to business.


The Leadership Evolution of Shakespeare’s Henry V William Shakespeare’s play Henry V teaches many lessons about leadership. Like the eponymous king of England, leaders must seek and nourish their vision and inspire others to follow it. They must cope with pandemonium while maintaining a stable, fluid work environment. They must decipher an ever-changing future and shift with it. As they change, they must retain the belief and support of their stakeholders – among them partners, employees, clients and vendors. Above all, they must help everyone in their organization – or kingdom – function under the pressure of unending change.

Studying King Henry’s personal evolution helps leaders recognize parallel struggles during their own leadership journey. All leaders must evolve, as Henry V demonstrates. The acts of the play work as metaphors for the different phases of a leader’s growth. Each one describes situations every leader faces and serves as an analogy for spiritual and moral growth.

The play teaches that, like King Henry, leaders must identify their enemies and allies before undertaking any major project. Most people can link...

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