7 Shakespeare Quotes to Help Guide HR Professionals


Shakespeare Week is a national annual celebration that is coming up shortly


William Shakespeare was born in 1564. The week of 18 March is Shakespeare week in the UK, - coordinated by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust – “Shakespeare Week provides the tools for schools, home educators, families and cultural organisations to offer children across the UK enriching and enjoyable early experiences with Shakespeare.”

In the spirit of celebration, here are a few Shakespeare quotes we can apply to building stronger leaders and improving the culture of our organizations.

"It is not in our stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves."

Most employees, especially leaders, may struggle with self-confidence and “imposter syndrome”. The imposter syndrome exists at all levels of an organization – bosses that were promoted too quickly, new employees who feel they are not qualified. HR professionals can help support managers and individuals to give them the confidence to step into their destiny – to help eradicate that feeling that everyone may have at times that we are not worthy of our station.

"Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast."

Innovation requires experimentation. There is a balance between safety and security and running quickly. In the era of cloud computing, agile development enables rapid innovation. At the same time, moving slowly and wisely on the big picture strategy is prudent.

"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."

Teams are made up of a broad set of individuals. People in various career stages, life stages, and inspired by different goals. The diversity of individuals are what make for great teams, and the role of HR professionals to bring out the best in everyone is critical to successful teams. It is often the quiet latecomers that become the greatest leaders. Jim Collins talks about this in the classic book Good to Great.

"Better three hours too soon than a minute too late."

This is a reminder to HR professionals to stay in touch with teams – meet with individuals and keep a check on team culture, team health, and dynamics so you can be three hours early if there is a need to intervene.

"To be, or not to be, that is the question."

This is the challenge that HR can pose to individuals – and to managers as they build their teams. HR professionals can take a role to challenge their teams to be great. Great leaders have the ability to inspire their followers. Mediocre managers do not have that ability and need support from HR professionals to help manage talent to ensure a good fit.

"How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world."

This quote is from the Merchant of Venice, written between 1596 and 1599. This is a great reminder for HR to support managers in noticing the outliers – build a culture of inclusion and give credence to those ideas that might not be mainstream.

The next line, from Nerissa, is “when the moon shone, we did not see the candle” – a great metaphor for manager’s self-absorption squashing great ideas coming from the team. 

"Is it not strange that desire should so many years outlive performance?"

People have long term dreams and ambitions – and while they have their day to day performance, that is typically far less ambitious than their long-term goals. HR professionals have a longer-term view of talent management versus the day to day manager.  All of us, as humans, have a desire that outlives our daily performance. If we are lucky, desire and performance converge over time.

Shakespeare leaves us so many great insights and as we look to celebrate him in the week ahead, we can apply his insights and his quotes to make our organizations better and more impactful. Often times, we can find great human insight and guidance for the future by looking to the past. Take some time to go back and read the classics and find new insights amidst the old stories.



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