Size (of the Stage) Doesn’t Matter!

accountability authentic leadership buy-in earning leadership entitlement influence inspiring and engaging leadership leadership leadership culture leadership responsibility respect responsibility team leadership Jun 29, 2022
Inspiring and Engaging Leadership

Let’s go back to that less than engaging experience I mentioned before where a fellow not named Bret Michaels soured my opinion of every bit of music he and his band had put out during their entire career… He and his band released an EP and five full studio albums before 1983 & 1990 and they had quite the run in the days where MTV actually played music videos. In their hayday, they were playing sold out shows in large arenas. By the time I saw them play in ‘97 or ‘98, MTV had effectively killed that style of music and all but stopped playing music videos. Like many other bands from the 80s, they were now playing in small bars and clubs to crowds of a few hundred rather than in the big venues to more than 10,000.

Whether they liked it or not, that was reality! And the few hundred folks who were still willing to show up were their customers. The night I saw them play for the first time, he clearly believed he still deserved to be playing arena shows and he made it abundantly clear that he had no appreciation whatsoever for those of us who spent money we had earned to support him. Hey, it’s still (kind of) a free country; you can do as much of that crap as you like - but you can’t do it and expect anyone to continue to follow you! Not as an entertainer or as a leader…

Now let’s apply that same thought process to how we lead our teams. Have you ever seen someone move from a role in a large company where they managed hundreds of people into a smaller organization with a significantly smaller team reporting to them? In most cases like that, they’re not only overseeing a smaller team but they also wear far more hats and have to do a number of things they previously had team members supporting them with. If they approach that new role the same way they handled their previous role, it’s just a matter of time until something hits the proverbial fan! But when they’re willing to jump in and do any task that needs their attention, their new team will be quite likely to rally around them and provide them with any support they could ever need. And any air of entitlement can crush that good will in a heartbeat.

A friend of mine has a YouTube channel where he does reviews of different bands and music videos. I’ve recently been able to help him schedule and host a few live interviews with some of those bands. In one interview, he asked the band member “what venues do you like playing in the most, the big music festivals with thousands of people or the smaller shows where people are so much closer to you?” The response was powerful! The band member immediately said, “I give it everything I’ve got every single time we play. I don’t care if it’s for 20 people or 20,000 people. It’s my job to perform.”

That, my friend, is exactly how we should view our responsibility as leaders. When we’re willing to invest the energy into engaging the teams we lead, whether that be one on one or when the entire company is watching, we’ll earn a level of influence and buy-in that we’ll never see if we mail it in when there aren’t as many people around!

For what it’s worth, not long after interviewing the band member who told us that, we had a chance to talk with the guy who manages their shows. I mentioned that comment to him and he shared a story about the band playing a venue that did absolutely nothing to promote them. He said the only people who showed up were from a local radio station that he had contacted himself. The venue and the guys from the radio station told them it would be fine to cancel but they wouldn’t have any part of that. He said the band played a full set for half a dozen people and it was one of the best performances he had ever seen from them. They didn’t feel entitled to anything!

As leaders, we’re not entitled to anything either. It’s our job to engage our teams and to serve them the best we can every single time. When we do, it will become what we’re known for. Moving forward, we’ll look at some examples of how we can do just that!