Defining Leadership – A Tribute to the Music of the 80’s

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For the next ten minutes, I want to just give you a few little thought-provoking analogies about leadership styles in the terms of music from the 80’s.  I definitely have lyrics on the brain right now so let’s just say I’m going for the reaction of “things that make you go hmmm!”

Music has always been a huge focal point of my life…I can instantly change my mood with a song.  It can take me to new heights in life or support whatever feeling I need to process in the moment.  For example, if you looked at my IPod you would see almost every genre from the 60’s to the present.  When I’m working out, I have a playlist full of loud rock music that pushes me forward.  When I am mourning something, I might listen to my Christian music or love songs.  When I am happy, you will find all kinds of music from Aretha Franklin to Miley Cyrus (yes, I just admitted that to the world).  I can turn on the radio and a song comes on that instantly reminds me of some moment in time.  The point is, I use music to slip away to another reality.   If this resonates with you, you are really going to enjoy this blog!

For me, the 1980’s brings back fond memories and offers some of the best music.  This decade produced some truly talented musicians that can paint a picture like no other and tell a beautiful story.  I was listening to Pandora the other day and Tears for Fears came on the radio….and I before I knew it, I began singing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”  While this may seem a bit odd (the singing of that song and the thought process that came soon after), I had been working with a group of employees who were having difficulty with a leader.  It made me wonder, how many songs can I find that truly define the essence of a leader.  This particular Tears for Fears song reminded me of a leader you may know as a Command/Control type.  The one that micro-manages, challenges everything, hovers and likely gives less than constructive feedback on your deliverable.  Have you ever worked for this kind of leader?  Um, yeah me too.  It’s a painful experience but have no fear there are so many great leaders out there!  Even more right there on the cusp of being a force to be followed. 

This whole experience sent me to the internet to explore other 80’s songs that may resonate.  The ones that when I hear it, I instantly think about a leader who should use that as their theme song.  In my 15 years of supporting, developing and working with leaders, I found that behaviors are situational but there is an overarching natural style that defines the leader. 

Let’s explore leadership styles that you may wish to follow, learn from or, lastly, stay away from in your career.  Now if you are the leader, you can determine which leader you are or, better yet, which one you want to be.

Are you ready to start our musical journey?  Take a look at the descriptors; sing along in your head if the mood strikes you….

First let’s begin with my personal favorite, the leader to be or follow:

“The Authentic Leader” –This leader is a craftsman.  They care about the task at hand, but also about the people that need to make it happen.  Engagement is a focal point of their style.  They are flexible, a good team builder and actively listen to those around them.  They measure success by balancing the values of their employees and the results necessary to accomplish a goal.  They personally drive for achievement, trust, teamwork and integrity.  They can literally bring up the energy in a room just by being present!  The song that plays in my mind for this type of leader is by Information Society - What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy).

I wanna know
What you're thinking
There are some things you can't hide...
I wanna know
What you're feeling
Tell me what's on your mind.

Next, we explore the leader to learn something from.  As a side note, this is a leader on the edge of greatness.  With a little bit of development, they can reach the authentic leader status because they naturally hold a lot of the characteristics.

“The Mentor/Guardian Leader”   This leader goes to great lengths to be transparent and gain followership. They are an effective listener, easy going, stress harmony and are dependable.  Small talk is welcomed and understanding quality of work life for everyone is important.  They want to know all about you so they can help you develop and grow. The downside of this type of leader is they may delay making tough calls because of their loyalty to their team vs. accomplishing the goal.  Any Bryan Adams fans out there?  Their messaging to the team sounds like Straight From the Heart.

Give it to me straight from the heart
Tell me we can make another start
You know I'll never go - as long as I know
It's comin' straight from the heart

“The Zen /Charismatic Leader” This leader makes the team feel like everything is going to be okay at all times.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a wooer.  They’re the one who says don’t worry; just take it day by day.  Having this type of calm in the midst of a storm is a wonderful feeling, BUT the drawback here can be that when times are tough, they may not truly have your back.  They are likely to avoid conflict at all costs.  They prefer harmony to dealing with the issue at hand.  Being able to rally the troops is a great skill-set but there has to be support when the rubber hits the road.  The song of a Zen leader is the good old Bobby McFerrin song – Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

Here's a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry, be happy.
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy.
Don't worry, be happy now.

And finally, the leaders you never want to be or work for:

“The Egomaniac Leader” This is a lot like the Command and Control leader, but it goes beyond trust and delegation issues.  It truly gets to the heart of “I know more than you” or “I am smarter than you.”  I like to compare this leader to the Godfather.  They expects loyalty at any cost.  They are authoritative and create dependencies on themselves.  They tend to be solo decision makers as the “the buck stops here.”  They are good in a crisis because they focus on getting things done at any cost.  They are poor listeners.  They believe in a hierarchical respect regardless of the behavior exhibited.  Eventually they burn out their team or cause disengagement.  And why not, right?  In the end, they validate their original thought process "I am truly smarter and better than you!" This leadership style sounds a lot like the good old song from the Charlie Daniels Band - Devil Went Down to Georgia.

Now, you play pretty good fiddle, boy,
but give the devil his due.
I'll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul,
'cause I think I'm better than you.

“The Toxic Narcissistic Leader” - Yes, you know this leader.  It is a combination of the command/control leader and the egomaniac leader.   It’s the one that does not care whether you are human or a robot.  Their turnover numbers are astronomical.  The only concern is whether or not the job is getting done.  Oh! And that they look good, giving very little credit to the actual worker bees.  The feeling this leader exudes to a team is a sense of urgency around every issue.  They tend to drive a lot of drama into their team environment.  They are aggressive, negative, and have an intense need for control.  They challenge everything and everyone.  Because this leader is all about themselves and they don’t really care about the people, the song that best describes them is by the famous Queen – Another One Bites the Dust.

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust

I just couldn’t stop there on this one.  I think another song that describes how this leader makes YOU feel is a classic by Michael Jackson – Beat It.

They're out to get you, better leave while you can
Don't wanna be a boy, you wanna be a man
You wanna stay alive, better do what you can
So beat it, just beat it

“The Rogue Leader” – This is a leadership trait to watch out for in your career.  They are the salesman.  Skillful, bright communicators who are politically savvy but play by their own rules.  They are competitive which often drives them towards their own agenda vs what is in the best interest of the company.  Why?  Because clearly they already know what is in the best interest of the company so they are going to do their own thing until everyone catches up with them and their brilliance!!!  Because culture eats strategy for breakfast, this type of leader doesn’t usually last long.  Selling in ideas, being able to gain support and attracting followership is the key to a successful leader so the house of cards typically will crumble on this type of leader.  A perfect song to describe this leader is by the ultimate rock band of the 80’s Whitesnake – Here I Go Again.

Here I go again on my own
goin' down the only road I've ever known.
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone
'cos I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams.

What songs came to your head?  I’m sure there are a lot more out there, but these resonated for me.  I’ve worked with, supported and been many of these leaders over my career.  I tended to float between the mentor and authentic, but I’m not fooling myself.  There was always a little bit of the rogue leader in me.  I wanted try new things and sometimes the company wasn’t willing to go there with me.  I sold in ideas and watched them get just enough support to feed my drive, but sometimes it wasn’t enough to get full buy-in so my strategies and goals would fail.  I blogged a while back about the Art of the F Word where epic failures are a must so you can learn and grow.  So while I went there from time to time, I definitely grew over my 15 years of leadership. 

If you are a leader who is on the edge of being that authentic leader, but just need a little bit of guidance to get you to the next level, I encourage you to think about these types of leaders.  Seek out support to define the leader you want to be, put a plan of action around it and begin sharing the best of you with your team.  It can be an exciting ride finding your PURE ENERGY and personal zone of authentic leadership.    

Contact me today if you want to explore your leadership style!!