Talk about a dream
Try to make it real
You wake up in the night
With a fear so real
You spend your life waiting
For a moment that just don’t come
Well, don’t waste your time waiting
–Badlands, Bruce Springsteen
Growing up, one of the most famous family stories was the fact that Bruce Springsteen could completely alter the setlist for a concert, and the entire E Street Band would need no other warning than the way Bruce counted them in. He could remove songs, add songs, rearrange the order, and take requests from the audience without acknowledging the band before counting in.
For those who know me even fractionally well, the fact that one of our family legends revolves around Bruce Springsteen and nothing about us should come as no surprise. However, the story always fascinated me. The fascination only intensified when I experienced how the crowd would know to start their own chants to songs without any direction – not a single person missing a beat to add to the intensity. How could he randomly change his mind and 10+ people in a band, and 30,000+ in the crowd would not just be able to follow along, but do so flawlessly? As I have grown up (and particularly during these difficult times), I realized that Bruce was able to command that level of unison through a proven leadership style based on three core pillars.
- Leadership needs to start with yourself
Springsteen has gone through several evolutions throughout the years. Everything from musical style to the artistic forum each defined by their own chapter. Each change marked by a new version of who he was that was communicated to himself and his audience. While I’m sure most leaders love the ego stroke of hearing that it’s all about them, leadership truly needs to start with themselves. It takes time to discover who you are as a person: what drives you?; what is your end goal?; who will be the people you need as a support to reach that goal?; what are you willing to sacrifice to get there? If you cannot answer these questions for yourself, how will you answer them when your employees ask them? As a leader, you need to recognize when the time for change has come and decide how you address that change for a broader organization. Just as Springsteen stepped away from the E Street band to work on himself, it is important to realize if you may need to separate yourself to put your team in the right leadership hands.
2. Complacency is never an option
You can be the greatest leader that the world has ever seen, but if your team is mediocre, your skills do not matter. As our CEO and Founder, Suuchi Ramesh, always says, we are the sum of the person to our left and our right. If we take a look at the E Street Band, Bruce surrounded himself with band members that pushed him to be a better songwriter, musician, and performer, but also those who complimented his skill set where he wasn’t strong enough. If you have proven yourself as a leader, it is easy for your team members to recognize the standard they need to hold themselves to. However, there is always a case where not all team members will be a fit for the long term. Our job as leaders is to identify where there is dead weight across a team and make sure our colleagues are dedicated to bettering themselves for the group’s end goal. Every person needs to understand that with hard work and an addiction to learning more, they have the power to reshape their future and the future of the company.
3. Stop talking and start listening
My parents said that from the minute I started talking, they could not keep me quiet. So naturally, I could use the most work in this area, but recognize that this is the most critical pillar. I remember attending Springsteen concerts as a kid and being mesmerized by the way that not a single note was played, and yet the entire crowd screamed “BRUUUCE!” as if he addressed every single person at the same time. There was more magic in that silence from the stage in anything that could have been said. Springsteen has perfected the art of silence. It is by assessing the crowd’s pulse during a performance, checking in to see how his plan has worked up to that point, or through a natural pause in an album to give the listener time to absorb what they have just heard. As leaders, we need to continually check in with our colleagues and collect feedback – whether it is positive or constructive criticism. Even better are the moments when leaders do not need to say a word and let the stellar team prove precisely why they are the best and brightest.
Springsteen worked tooth and nail to earn his title as The Boss. Now is the time for leaders across industries to prove that they are willing to have that same level of dedication. Difficult times separate real leaders from those who are only attracted to the glamour of the title. So, the question is: are you willing to step up to the plate and prove your worth to your team, or will you be the next leadership cautionary tale?