Leadership Lessons from Literature

Bard College

Joseph Luzzi (PhD, Yale) is the Asher B. Edelman Professor of Literature and Faculty Member in Italian Studies at Bard College, and he taught previously at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in The New York Times, TLS, The London Times, the Guardian, Chronicle of Higher Education, and on National Public Radio. Dr. Luzzi’s awards include a Yale College Teaching Prize, Dante Society of America Essay Prize, and Wallace Fellowship at Villa I Tatti, Harvard’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. He is the author of five books and recently created The Virtual Book Club: an international community of readers dedicated to exploring major literary works past and present.



This unique talk considers the key concepts and associated analytical tools that are essential for understanding how literature can serve as a valuable guide to business leaders and others. We will explore what they’ll learn from major works of literature, and how leading business minds including Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs have turned to literature—and, more broadly, ideas in the humanities—for their groundbreaking innovations. Our focus will be on how literature provides “test cases” for effective leadership as well as the related practices of idea generation, conflict resolution, decision-making, and corporate diversity/cultural sensitivity. Literary sources for leadership will include the works of Plato, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Melville, and Lincoln, among others, as participants learn to leverage literary writings into inspiring and time-tested leadership techniques. Attendees will learn the 5 principles of the “Reader’s Edge,” a program I have created that aims to fuel long-term professional success through a sustained engagement with great literary works


Discussion Questions:

  1. How can literature use imaginative situations to help us make real-world leadership decisions?
  2. What makes “storytelling” such a key component of leadership, and how can literature help develop this storytelling skill?
  3. Why have so many great leaders throughout history turned to the inspirational power of literature?




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