Leadership Legacy Lessons from a Rock Band

If we have ever had a conversation about music for more than 3 seconds, it’s very likely that the Canadian power-trio Rush has been mentioned. I’ve been hooked as a fan of theirs since the early 80’s, mostly because of their musicianship, incredible arrangements, and the fact that they stuck to their guns and created the music they wanted to create.

In the early days of their career, they were dogged by critics and record companies alike because they were different. They didn’t conform to the cookie-cutter mold that created instant stardom. What they did do over the years is create a legion of loyal fans who appreciate a great live show with incredible, technically complex rock music… And along the way manage to rank #3 all time in consecutive gold and platinum album sales behind the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Their music and career is now being highlighted in a new movie called Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage.

What intrigues me most about their 40 year career (which is almost unheard of in rock ‘n’ roll) was HOW they became such a phenomenon, and what we can learn from their journey as leaders.

First, they stuck to what they believe in, and when something didn’t work, they didn’t give up but worked harder and got better. In the mid 70’s, Rush released an album called “Caress of Steel“. Even for die-hard fans this album is considered to be an acquired taste. It was not well received at the time, and in fact the subsequent tour was nick-named the “Down the Tubes Tour”. It did not go well. However, instead of folding up shop, they got back to work and created what has become one of their greatest works, “2112“.

With all of their accomplishments over the years, it would be easy for the eventual success to go to their heads. While I don’t know the members of the band personally, they have a reputation for being very humble and continually appreciative for the support of their fans. In their 1981 song “Limelight“, they talk about the blurred line of privacy that comes with being a celebrity, and how awkward it can be to try to pretend that a “stranger is a long-awaited friend.” To me that shows that they did not get into this business for the fame or money, but for the music. I think that is another thing that their fans have found to be refreshing over the years. You don’t hear about the members of Rush being involved in sex scandals or going to rehab, because they have remained grounded and never forget what’s really important, their fans and the music.

On the flip side, I also think a big part of their success comes from not taking themselves too seriously. They can laugh with and at each other, partly (I believe) because they have such deep-rooted respect for each other as people and musicians. This again helps them stay focused on what’s important.

So stick to what you believe in, stay humble and have fun… it’s a “formula” that’s worked for Rush for 40 years. Just think what it can do for your leadership career!

Thanks for reading!

IAAPA webinar-Preparing New Supervisors

I’m very excited for tomorrow’s IAAPA webinar on preparing new supervisors to lead their peers. I’ll be joined by Matt Eckert from Holiday World and Shaun McKeogh from Ferrari World for an hour chock full of leadership goodness!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
1 pm EST

Click here for more details. Hope you can join us!

Small town customer service

I can see now why John Mellencamp was so proud to be from a small town. There seems to a slightly different approach to customer service (among other things) which is refreshing and surprising if you aren’t ready for it.

While tending to some family business in the sleepy little town of Harbert, MI, my wife and I were on the hunt for some plants. Nothing fancy, but we had a small porch that needed sprucing up. After a quick search on the iPhone, we realized there was a nursery right around the corner. Since it was after 5 pm, I called to see how late they would be open.

A very nice gentleman with a deep “James Earl Jones” type voice answers the phone. I ask their hours, and he says very politely, “are you coming over now?”. At first I thought it was an odd question, until he revealed that he thought I was someone else; someone he was already expecting. When that got cleared up, he said, “well, we usually close at 6, but if I know you are coming, I can stick around.”

This is honestly much different than the responce I usually hear. It is usually much more emphatic and unwavering. Right off the bat he is being flexible and accomodating… Which was nice, but a little surprising. He was already looking out for me, which made me want to look out for him.

I told him we were on our way, but if he didn’t see us by 6, don’t hang around.

Granted there are a few differences between the circumstances of big city and small town service interactions. In a small town you usually have fewer people and a more laid back atmosphere, which any service provider will tell you immediately makes the job easier. However, the big difference in this case had nothing to do with the service in the store- it happened before we got there.

The difference is caring. Caring not just about the sale and making the right change, but caring about the customer. Caring about them as a person, not as a walking wallet.

What’s more important to YOU as a consumer? If you value the way you are treated, you can bet that your customers feel the same way. Unfortunately, we don’t spend nearly as much time on that aspect of an employees performance as we do on upselling or even product knowledge. The thing that we want most as consumers is what we spend the least time on training and reinforcing with our employees.

Does that make sense to you? If not, I think you just figured out your next “to do” when you get back to work.

Thanks for reading!!