Going Gaga–Leadership and Reinvention

Going Gaga–Leadership and Reinvention

One of the most enjoyable series of blog posts I have written was looking at the leadership styles of celebrities. I started with Britney Spears and Madonna, moved on to Angelina Jolie and eventually ended up with Conan and Leno – and in each of these celebrities I found some insight worth sharing. But these posts weren’t just fun to write, they forced me to look beyond the image – to dig deeper, below the surface – to discover a trait or an ability that wasn’t just more grist for the publishing mill. This week I was reading the 12 Most … website and came across an article on Lady Gaga. Now, there must be hundreds of websites devoted to this talented and controversial artist (and dozens of articles, believe it or not, connecting Gaga with leadership) – but Shawn Murphy took a different approach. He wanted to find 12 nuggets of leadership insight that are often overlooked. This was something that greatly appealed to me. Out of the 12 items identified, one in particular caught my attention. Reinvention. Gaga takes down her platinum albums before recording a new album. Why? To start all over as though she’s won nothing. It’s a reminder for leaders that previous successes do not make us special. They do not make us better than others. We must always step back before moving forward when we take on a new project or lead a team. This idea of stepping back before moving forward is important. Even as leaders we need to take stock and re-assess our position – and the start of a new...

What Leaders Can Learn from Conan and Leno

Watching the way that NBC has been handling the Conan vs Leno debacle has me thinking … why do experienced leaders continue to make poor decisions when it comes to succession? Many organizations now have systems in place that help identify emerging leaders – the rock stars of our businesses – and opportunities and challenges are funnelled in their direction. With this comes responsibility, accountability – and hopefully mentoring and support. But all this is a two way street. If we expect accountability from our rising stars, we must also expect it of ourselves. When we are thinking through succession plans – we need to consider not just who’s coming in, but what’s going out. That’s right – when a leader leaves, it marks the end of an era. She will take with her, her whole way of doing business – and the impact of this will be felt right through your business. Perhaps NBC weren’t ready to deal with this type of wholesale change – communicating the way in which this transition would be handled should have been clearer, unambiguous and ongoing. Communications around succession needs to be handled over several months, and in some cases, one to two years. After all, we all crave security. Part of this stability comes from “doing what you say”. In NBC’s case, making an offer and then rescinding it has created confusion and uncertainty. Not only will this impact the financial performance of both shows (think of the advertisers and sponsors – or in your business, your various stakeholders), it also sends a morale breaking message to all your other up-and-coming...

What Leaders Can Learn from Chesley Sullenberger

Well if we’ve ever needed an example of what it really is to lead during a crisis, this past week’s U.S. Airways flight 1549 water landing shows us loud and clear.  Just moments after takeoff, the 29-year U.S. Airways veteran captain of the plane and a pilot for 40 years, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, knew his plane was in serious trouble.  Barely off the ground, the plane flew right through a flock of geese causing some birds to be drawn into each of the plane’s engines knocking them both out.  Passenger and crew accounts indicate the “deadly silence” that followed the loud bang indicating the loss of the engines.  The silence was broken by a calm, authoritative voice stating, “This is the captain speaking. Brace for impact.” From that very moment, passengers and crew knew they were in for the ride of a lifetime, if not the end of one.  Even those that might not normally be prone to do so, began praying.  And in answer to those prayers and to their collective good fortune, this particular captain was not only very experienced pilot in the Airbus he was flying, but also quite experienced in flying glider planes.  And, of course, one interesting thing to note about glider planes is that every landing is an engine-out landing! So here they were, 155 people on board an engine-less plane, with a pilot well-versed in landing glider planes.  After alerting the passengers and crew, Sullenberger went to work determining his best course of action.  Try to return to La Guardia Airport, attempt to reach Newark Airport across the river, maybe head...

What Leaders Can Learn from Britney Redux

Some time ago, I posted a series on the lessons that leaders can learn from celebrities – and in this post about Britney Spears I explained my STOP approach to crisis management: Story – I believe that a crisis is best handled head on. In a crisis, it is imperative that the leader OWNS the story – gather your facts, position the crisis in the context of your “big picture” strategy, and put forward your story. Remember, the crisis is about you and you will be judged by how you deal with both its resolution and its telling. Timeliness – In a crisis, timeliness is critical. Take a few moments to map out a couple of key milestones that will need to be passed before your crisis is resolved. If you don’t feel capable of discussing details, explain that details will be forthcoming, but in a timeframe of YOUR choosing. Then, make sure you deliver on each of your milestones. Remember, to over communicate. Own the story. Own up to your responsibilities. Objectivity – If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t speculate. Speak only to the facts. Be serious. Professionals – Sometimes a crisis needs the help of a professional. Reach out to those you trust. Look at your story, think about the timelines and figure out if you have the capacity to be objective. Wherever there is a gap, consider hiring-in experienced help. Interestingly, Britney Spears has recently embarked on a social media strategy, with a blog and a Twitter account (while I am interested in Twitter, I simply don’t have the capacity to commit...

Ushering In an Era of Change

Finally after a nearly two-year campaign [although it seemed even longer], the U.S. voters have spoken – loudly and clearly!  In an historic election, Barack Obama won not only a popular vote by many percentage points, but he trounced his opponent in an Electoral landslide.  Regardless of your political stripes, the respect due Barack Obama and his campaign staff is both enormous and unquestionable.  Together they overcame tremendous odds on so many fronts – the first African American candidate with any true prospects of winning the presidency, defeating a seemingly unstoppable Hillary Clinton [and the entire Clinton political machine] in the Democratic primaries, creating a ticket with two senators on it when no senator had won the presidency in decades, and many others. And now, on this morning after Election Day, our country wakes up in a new era – one that we can all be extremely proud of.  We, the American voting public, have demonstrated to the world that America wants to regain its position as a respected leader of nations.  We seek redemption for policies that have left even some of our staunchest allies looking askew at our decisions and actions abroad.  We have shown that the American public has, at times, a voice of its own – distinct from that of our government and our policies.  We should all stand proud at the progress achieved with the mere casting of our individual votes – according to Real Clear Politics, over 136 million people voted, the highest turnout rate since 1908. We have also moved the dial on racial issues that have plagued our country for nearly...

What Leaders Can Learn from Marion

Without question, we all strive to do the very best that we can. And, it probably goes without saying, that, to a large extent, we are limited only by our own capabilities. Be it singers, actors, athletes or even students, from a very early age, prodigies often make themselves known to those around them. The challenge often faced by those that show such tremendous early success is to maintain exceptional levels of performance. This is very often easier said than done. Born October 12, 1975, Marion Jones showed great talent even as a very young athlete. At age 8, living near Los Angeles, her family traveled to watch the torch relay leading up to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. In fact, that very night, she went to her bedroom and wrote on a chalkboard, ”I want to be an Olympic champion.” Her destiny was made at that very young moment. She set her dreams in motion with a dogged pursuit. By the time she reached high school, she broke several records in track and field including winning the California state championship in the 100 meter sprint for four straight years. Before her senior year, she was offered a spot on the American 4 x 100-meter relay in the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain. For reasons that are not entirely clear, she declined to participate. In fact, in 2000, Jere Longman wrote in The New York Times: “Depending on who is telling the story, Jones either wanted her first gold to come in an individual event or her mother would not let her participate because her grades were insufficient.’’...