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Literature's Lessons on Leadership

May 6, 2006 (Weekend Edition Saturday)

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Author Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. thinks that future business leaders can learn something from literature's classics. In his book, Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership Through Literature, he argues that certain literature "lets us watch leaders as they think, worry, hope, hesitate, commit, exult, regret, and reflect... These books draw us into leaders' worlds, put us in their shoes, and at times let us share their experiences."

With that in mind, Badaracco presents eight challenges that can test a leader's character, and eight works through which to examine these hurdles: Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman, Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, Allan Gurganus' story "Blessed Assurance," F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Love of the Last Tycoon, Joseph Conrad's story "The Secret Sharer," Louis Auchincloss' I Come as a Thief, Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons and Sophocles' play Antigone.

Badaracco is a professor at the Harvard Business School, where he teaches courses in strategy and business ethics.

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