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 project is the perfect opportunity. We need to treat each new challenge with the respect that that challenge deserves, otherwise we run the risk of replaying ourselves rather than reinventing. Just look at the way that the best musicians change and tweak the same songs they have been singing for years. They find something new or profound with every performance. Just look at this bare bones performance of the Gaga hit Pokerface. It’s one performer, one instrument. There are no dancers, no support singers. It’s intimate and immediate. As viewers – as an audience – we have the sense that the performance is only for us.
This is the impact that we, as leaders, strive for. It’s what Wally Bock calls giving the gift of attention. The gift of attention is something that should not only be reserved for our teams – it should also be given generously to ourselves. It is vital to our own reinvention and ultimate success.
Nina Nets It Out: Singing the same old tune can make us feel safe – but also stale. The leader’s challenge is to tread the line between the two. A bit like the modern day Madonna, Lady Gaga is truly an artist who shows us how reinvention can trump repetition while still delivering to her audience – and there is much we can learn from her discipline and practice.