“I have two instincts, I want to have fun, and I want to change the world. As a rock star I have a chance to do both,” were the words of Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2. The man is not just great at “rock-n-roll” but is also today one of the most influential global leaders. The man today symbolises ‘poverty alleviation’. Not surprising that when the famous author Jeffrey Sachs released his book “The End of Poverty”, it was Bono who was asked to write the Foreword. The man is not just a great singer but also a great and influential world leader. Apart from receiving multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, he has featured on TIME magazine as the “Person of the Year”. His campaign “ONE” boasts of over 2.4 million supporters. From the time he sang his hit single in 1984, Do they know its Christmas, to raising money for Ethiopian famine relief, the man and his band have come a long way. The man is what rock star leadership is all about.
LEADERS OF ROCK-N-ROLL
To the world, they would be remembered as great singers who loved to rock-n-roll. But look deep and you realise that each of them taught us some very important principles of leadership. They taught us that those people, no matter what their background, who remain true to themselves and fight for what they believe in, can change the world.
As a student, she dreamt of being the world’s best dancer. In spite of a series of failures, the girl persisted. Her songs inspired women and talked of the hardships they endure. She worked hard, ready to give whatever it takes, till the world stood up and took notice of her and asked “Who’s that girl?” Madonna showed the world the power of dreams. A great leader dreams, persists and finally succeeds. When her mother died while she was barely five, Madonna told herself, “If my mother can’t love me, then I will make the world love me.” She surely succeeded in doing so.
In the 1960s, when Americans started questioning authority, questioning the futility of war, the assassination of their hero J. K. Kennedy, a man gave music to their thoughts. His songs voiced the change that was in their hearts, and people adored him. Bob Dylan showed the world how “The times they are a-changin” and they sang with him. Great leaders are those who understand the needs of the new generation and have the power to harness that energy. Isn’t that similar to Barack Obama, who did not sing, but “spoke” what the new generation wanted to listen, and won their hearts and votes, like never, ever seen before?
If you really want to be that great leader, you need to behave like a ‘Rock star’. Look at those guys and you could pick up some vital clues. They believe in themselves. As Bono said in his speech to the graduating class of 2004 at the University of Pennsylvania “…sing the melody you hear in your own head; you don’t owe anybody any explanations…” They are great with people. They know what works, and what people want. As Bruce Springsteen once said, “The audiences are there as a result of my history with the band, but also as a result of my being able to reach people with a tune.” Great leaders give people hope, make them believe in the future and show them a way to face today, much like good music, which is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with.
If great leaders are like great rock stars, then so are the great brands these leaders make. Great brands share the same rapport with their consumers as a rock band does with its fans. A hit single by a rock band excites its fans like never before. A whole stadium comes to life and sings like one. Thousands of people from all over the world growing to one beat, one set of lyrics; and then, if the band later comes out with a not-so-good song, they forgive it and wait for the next big thing. Great bands have great fans who follow it dedicatedly. Much like Steve Jobs. His fans wait with baited breath for his next release. His iPhone 4 may have failed initially. In fact, the wi-fi failed to work at the high profile launch of the phone, yet people are waiting for the device. Apple TV may not have been a great idea, but the iPad blew your mind. Like a rock star leader, the man knows how to keep his fans (customers) happy.
To really “rock” the work place, you need that rock star “attitude”. You need that super confidence, that uber-cool look. Be it Bono’s trademark sunglasses, or Madonna’s “Material Girl” fashion style which made her an icon, each had a unique style that made them stand out. A great leader too should dress differently to stand out, not blend in.
And finally, add a little “madness” to work. Make it fun, make it full of energy. Your workspace should pulsate with positive energy, like a rock concert night, where excitement reaches maddening levels. It all looks chaotic, yet everyone works towards one goal – to make the evening rock. Everyone should work, do their part with complete devotion to the brand, for in its success, lies their success too! If every employee puts the organisation before self and works together with others to achieve that one goal, the business, the work place, would truly rock.
WHAT’S LIFE WITHOUT SOME LAZY, CRAZY WAYS
Baron Kurt Von Hammerstein–Equord was a great general who defined leaders using four quadrants – clever or stupid, diligent or lazy. Stupid & lazy is what 90% of the army is made of. Make them do routine work. Stupid & diligent, he said were a menace, to be gotten rid of immediately. Clever & diligent were people, who needed to be given top positions. However the leader was one who was clever & lazy!! It’s that lazy streak, which makes you delegate (the most important trait of a leader). It’s that lethal combination of laziness and cleverness that make these people find the quickest, easiest and the most efficient way of doing things.
As someone once said, “Being lazy is sometimes hard work.” You do it right the first time, so it never needs reworking again. That’s successful lazy leadership.
BE CRAZY TO MAKE PEOPLE CRAZY FOR YOU
She lived in an orphanage, yet she was crazy enough to dream big. She may not have spent her life in a rich and elegant environment but her clothes were demanded by the rich. Back in 1925, when women were beginning to go to work in offices, this lady showed them a crazy way of dressing, unheard till then. Coco Chanel taught them to cut their hair short, get rid of bone corsets, for it was impossible to work if a lady was imprisoned in one. She introduced suits made of “jersey” material, which till then was used only to make undergarments. Her crazy ideas gave women a chance to breath and feel comfortable and also fashionable.
Born into the lowest rung of rural life, made to work in the kitchens of rich families by her mother, this woman was crazy to dream of power and fame. Yet, at 27, Eva Peron became the First Lady of Argentina.
If you are crazy, you can even defy fate. Your “faith” in yourself, gives you the confidence to act like a rock star, who performs on stage and builds his fan-base, one show, one song at a time. Being ready to face failures and have the ability to come back again – that’s what craziness is all about, that’s what rock stars are all about. Today’s leader is that guy who works with passion, builds a fan-base that’s devoted to him through all his ups and downs, has the confidence to take in failures, the charm to make people love him and the power to act day in and day out, for he has a crazy, lazy streak that keeps him going!
Don’t just lead. Lead like a crazy rock star!