I’m the consummate rocker. I absolutely love all types of music. My favorite bands include The Cult, Led Zeppelin, and every single hair band that ever hit the stage. What I never realized is that a rock star could show me the way to better leadership. The concept of that might sound unlikely, but they exhibit behaviors that we can use to help us become better managers, directors, VPs, and corporate presidents.
Matthew Bellamy, the lead signer for the band Muse might be considered one of the most entertaining rock stars of today. In fact, the band is renowned for setting a high standard for live production. Although he is very outspoken and sometimes controversial in his comments to the media, his dedication to his craft is unprecedented. From the song Invincible, he writes,
“Follow through. Make your dreams come true. Don’t give up the fight. You will be all right. ‘Cause there’s no one like you in the universe.” Leaders are unique creatures that drive teams of professionals, and it takes a special breed to do just that.
Let’s explore this idea more.
Performers have command of three important qualities of leaders— dedication, practice, and a thirst for learning. The lead singer reigns over the band, sets the tone, creates fellowship, establishes the vision, and builds inspiration. And that’s exactly what we try to do as leaders.
In meetings and conference rooms we must learn to be flexible, adaptable, and be able to perform for our audience. The art of performing is daunting, but if we think in that way, we can create a revolution. The ability to read the room and “act the part” shapes our reputations, spurs confidence in our direction, and creates stability in our strategic value. Here are a few tips.
- Read the House.
One of my favs, Jon Bon Jovi, wrote, “I’ve seen a million faces, and I’ve rocked them all.” That line is killer. And just like a performer, assessing people’s reactions in a room is important. Whether it’s a planning meeting with your team or a presentation to a huge group, you need to be self-aware. You want your audience to respond to you, so be clear on your direction, speak slow and loud, and move around the room.
The goal is to align your people. So model the behaviors that you want to see from your peers and teammates. Create an environment of collaboration to establish a sense of purpose for your staff.
- Dedicate Yourself to Practice.
We can’t learn leadership in an intellectual way. The conceptual framework of leadership is of no help unless it is experienced and incorporated into our daily lives. Learning to be a good leader is much like learning an instrument. We can be taught to play, but that teaching is lost unless we make the commitment to study the music and make time for repetitive play.
The idea of unrelenting practice could seem like punishment. And when we begin practice, sometimes we find ourselves in a circular loop—a refrain that gets us stuck in a certain style and thinking. Remember that Robert Plant didn’t build a band like Led Zeppelin in one day, and without a ton of hard work and practice. In the song, Good Times, Bad Times he sang, “In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man. Now I’ve reached that age, I’ve tried to do all those things the best I can. No matter how I try, I find my way into the same old jam.” Finding your way to the same path can be very difficult to break.
Don’t get discouraged and start here. Develop a road map of where you are today and where you’re going in the future. For instance, what type of leader are you now? What kind of leader do you want to be? Where do you want to be six months from now? And what do you need to learn to get there?
- Drive Toward Perfection.
“A band’s only unique thing is its chemistry, especially if none of you are prodigious players or particularly handsome. The one thing you have is your uniqueness, so we hold on to that,” said Chris Martin from Coldplay.
The notion of individuality can carry us a long way as leaders. Because we all know that perfection isn’t even possible. But striving for it requires deep reflection and again, the ability to be self-aware. It requires us to convert our learning into experience, knowing that practice and persistence doesn’t show immediate improvement. It’s really more significant to know the end game and to figure out what it takes to get there.
- Create Anticipation and Stir Imagination.
Its rad if you can build suspense just like an encore performance. The best feeling in the world is standing amongst a crowd of screaming people, waiting for the last song, most likely you’re favorite song. It’s the spontaneity of improvisation that captures our minds. And waiting for it, shows the true power of silence.
We’re faced with a competitive landscape that is more intense than ever. This means that in a volatile, uncertain, and complex environment we need to seriously reconsider our strategies and strengths so that we don’t get lost in the disruption. What distinguishes good and bad leadership is the anticipation involved in all aspects of a leader’s work.
The lesson learned is that leaders need to make moves—by mastering communication, listening, understanding, and fostering inspiration. If we don’t grow and learn, its certain that we will be left behind. Sometimes we will find that it takes the sacrifice of personal integrity to keep up and stay current. At the end of the day, being a good leader requires a powerful understanding of others and of oneself.