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What Leaders Can Learn from Springsteen

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Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are coming to DC tonight. Unfortunately, I don't have tickets but I do have an iPod full of the Boss's music and great memories of a Springsteen show I saw a few years ago. What is it about Springsteen and the band that inspires such loyalty among their legions of followers? Apart from drifting on rock and roll fantasies, what can leaders learn from the Boss and the heart stopping, house rocking, earth shaking, legendary E Street Band?

In a brief interview with the Washington Post's J. Freedom du Lac (how's that for a very cool name?), E Street guitarist Nils Lofgren provides some insights on the Boss for leaders who want to rock the house.

Keep It Fresh: Lofgren says that Springsteen is surprising the band in the middle of shows by calling out classic cover songs that they haven't worked up ahead of time. As Neils says, "we're playing songs we don't even know how to play, which, I guess is taking improv to new heights." By stretching the band in this way, Springsteen is introducing a fresh element that adds some fun and keeps everyone engaged. What are you doing to keep it fresh for your team?

Experience Matters: Of course, if you're going to play songs you don't know in an arena full of people, it helps if you have some experience. As Lofgren points out, "we've probably got 300 to 400 years onstage" between the different members of the band. As discussed in recent posts, experience and practice leads to world class performance. As a leader, what kind of experience matters most to the results that you and your team are expected to deliver? What are you doing to recruit and develop that experience?

Take a Stand: Springsteen has a history of clearly stating his point of view and writing songs that illustrate where he stands. His fans may not always agree with him on every issue, but most of them appreciate his authenticity. Lofgren talks about this at some length in the interview. As a leader, what matters enough to you to take a stand and stick with it? What are you doing to communicate those principles?

Bring Your Soul: If you've seen Springsteen in concert, you know that he approaches his performance as a spiritual revival. Lofgren argues that "what I think Bruce is doing better than any performer today; he's giving the audience, yes, an escape but also maybe some spiritual hope and confidence that they didn't have when they walked in the doors at 8." The Boss brings his soul to the performance and turns it loose. That's what connects with people. I'm not suggesting that you slide across the floor of your office on your knees at your next staff meeting (although if you do, please send a video), but what are you doing to let your team know what you think is worth being passionate about?

OK, so that's my list. All you hard rocking Springsteen fans out there, what would you add?

 

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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