POST: What We Can Learn About Leadership from The Boss

A Bruce (The Boss) Springsteen fan reflects on what her coaching clients can learn about leadership from him. 

The Boss, photo by Maggi Cary (433 x 440)

“Wanna buy or sell a ticket?”

The entrance to Washington, DC’s Verizon Center was a sidewalk version of the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange.

You haven’t been to a Springsteen concert until you’ve gone with real fans, those who’ve met band members and know about their personal lives. Those who keep track of how many concerts they’ve seen and remember the locations. Those who fly to other cities to see him. This concert I had that privilege. Libby and Dorothy have been Springsteen fans from the beginning, with photos, facts, and memories of playlists.

We concert-goers were the opening act, several generations of fans, entering in line and heading up escalators to their seats in Washington, DC’s Verizon Center. Smiles all around. We sat behind the stage, up close and within easy view of two large screens. Bruce plays for his fans – 360 degrees on an open stage.

He promised to send us home with “your ears ringin’, your back achin’ and your sexual organs stimulated.” Returning home hoarse is a given.

We stood nearly the entire time, along with the rest of the 20,000 fans, singing the words to our favorites. The band was tight, a high functioning team.

What leadership lessons does The Boss teach?

1. Give clear direction. His band members know what to do. They work in unison.

2. Give value. Bruce performed three-hours non-stop, dancing, strumming, and singing.
“We wanna wake you up, shake you up and take you to higher ground!”

3. Listen to your customers. Bruce added an audience selection, “Out in the Street,” not rehearsed for this tour.

4. Know what you’re doing. Bruce has been entertaining for over four decades, has written over 400 songs and stays focused.

5. Trust your people. Bruce crowd-surfed, held aloft by an ever-changing ring of hands gently moving him to the stage.

6. Invite others to join. Bruce brought two young fans on stage. The first was a boy who sang, sat with Bruce and slid across the stage on his knees with Bruce. Bruce boogied with a girl wearing rabbit ears.

7. Acknowledge others’ contributions. In addition to his band members, Bruce recognized a contingent of Veterans and paid tribute to Clarence Clemons, the Big Man, who died last year and to Danny Federici, who died four years ago.
“If you’re here and we’re here, then they’re here.”

8. Show you care. Bruce shook hands, walked in the crowd and gave a 360-degree performance, including those in the tiered seats behind the stage.

9. Give back. Bruce encouraged donating to DC Central Kitchen.

10. Take a stand. Bruce speaks out for the disenfranchised in America.

11. Have passion for what you do and make it fun. Bruce performs as if he’s leading a tent revival.

12. Keep it fresh. Bruce’s set lists change with each concert.

How does your leadership stack up to the Boss?

Published on The Doctor Weighs In


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About Dr. Cary

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Dr. Margaret Cary is a senior executive, physician, educator, professional speaker, author, facilitator and executive coach who combines broad management and patient care experience in health care, information technology and the media.

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