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What Leaders Can Learn from Springsteen

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in The Next Level

Bruce Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are coming to DC tonight.  Unfortunately, I don’t have tickets but I do have an iPod full of the Boss’s music and great memories of a Springsteen show I saw a few years ago.  What is it about Springsteen and the band that inspires such loyalty among their legions of followers?  Apart from drifting on rock and roll fantasies, what can leaders learn from the Boss and the heart stopping, house rocking, earth shaking, legendary E Street Band?

In a brief interview with the Washington Post's J. Freedom du Lac (how’s that for a very cool name?), E Street guitarist Nils Lofgren provides some insights on the Boss for leaders who want to rock the house.

Keep It Fresh: Lofgren says that Springsteen is surprising the band in the middle of shows by calling out classic cover songs that they haven’t worked up ahead of time. As Neils says, “we’re playing songs we don’t even know how to play, which, I guess is taking improv to new heights.”  By stretching the band in this way, Springsteen is introducing a fresh element that adds some fun and keeps everyone engaged.  What are you doing to keep it fresh for your team?

Experience Matters: Of course, if you’re going to play songs you don’t know in an arena full of people, it helps if you have some experience. As Lofgren points out, “we’ve probably got 300 to 400 years onstage” between the different members of the band.  As discussed in recent posts, experience and practice leads to world class performance. As a leader, what kind of experience matters most to the results that you and your team are expected to deliver? What are you doing to recruit and develop that experience?

Take a Stand:  Springsteen has a history of clearly stating his point of view and writing songs that illustrate where he stands. His fans may not always agree with him on every issue, but most of them appreciate his authenticity. Lofgren talks about this at some length in the interview. As a leader, what matters enough to you to take a stand and stick with it? What are you doing to communicate those principles?

Bring Your Soul: If you’ve seen Springsteen in concert, you know that he approaches his performance as a spiritual revival. Lofgren argues that “what I think Bruce is doing better than any performer today; he’s giving the audience, yes, an escape but also maybe some spiritual hope and confidence that they didn’t have when they walked in the doors at 8.”  The Boss brings his soul to the performance and turns it loose.  That’s what connects with people.  I’m not suggesting that you slide across the floor of your office on your knees at your next staff meeting (although if you do, please send a video), but what are you doing to let your team know what you think is worth being passionate about?

OK, so that’s my list.  All you hard rocking Springsteen fans out there, what would you add?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Robe May 20, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Springsteen is totally committed to his music and his fans. In the works: THE LIGHT IN DARKNESS Lawrence Kirsch Communications, creator of the recent book For You, is beginning work on a new book called
The Light in Darkness, to focus specifically on the Darkness on the Edge of Town era. Like For You, the forthcoming book will feature concert photography and stories from fans. Kirsch tells Backstreets, “This tribute to Darkness will be something special: more passionate stories, breathtaking never-seen-before photos, and some discovered artwork and memorabilia gems that will be of great interest to fans no matter when they were introduced to Bruce’s music.” Visit http://www.thelightindarkness.com for more information and to contribute.


Dan May 19, 2009 at 3:28 pm

I’m a Teacher/Coach of 22 years, have been a Sprigsteen fan since 1977! I always have tried to come to school with the passion Bruce brings to the stage. Granted over the course of a school year, just like any job, some days you’d rather be anywhere but here. But the majority of days, I try to “bring it” for my players and students.

Enthusiasm and effort are contagious. I have seen him 28 times over the years and I am inspired everytime I leave a show to do my absolute best each day! My last show was on May 2, I witnessed an almost 60 year old man’s performance put this generation to shame.

Young people and all laborers need to see that effort and hard work are what you SHOULD do no matter what! Bruce doesn’t need to perform, he could “phone in” his effort, but he deosn’t. People need that lesson! As he says in ‘The Promised Land’: “I’ve done my best to live the right way, I get up every morning and go to work each day”!


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