CEO Confidential

Learn to Fly: Leadership Lessons From an Amazing Foo Fighters Concert

A sweaty mass of headbanging music lovers isn’t the typical CEO scene, but a CEO could certainly learn a thing or two from the band who’s inspiring the crowd — in this case, the Foo Fighters.

Frontman Dave Grohl had broken his leg at a previous concert, but was still rocking as hard as ever at a recent one. When he saw a little girl who also had a broken leg, he gave her his crutches, signed her cast, and let her sign his.

It wasn’t “Dave Grohl and his backups” — this was the Foo Fighters, a family of rockers without egos and without hierarchies. The band practiced and prepared well. When they had to go off-script, their chemistry made it seamless, fresh, and powerful. They played fearlessly, gave every action purpose, and engaged with the audience the whole time. For one night, they were our leaders and we wanted nothing more than to follow.

Customers, team members, and partners who yearn to follow should be what every CEO strives for. But you don’t have to be a rock star to be a great leader. Take note of these five leadership factors that oozed from the stage:

  1. Express yourself authentically.

Don’t be like other companies on some Fortune 500 list. What makes companies great are their teams’ abilities to execute exceptionally well and to do so authentically. Just be yourself. Watching Dave shred on stage with a broken leg (and sign a random fan’s cast), you’d never know he’s a zillionaire. And it’s not an act — that’s who he is.

  1. Go all out.

Passion is an attractive quality to fans and employees alike. It’s contagious. Never fear going too far or making a fool of yourself about what you love. If it’s drumming, play those drums with every ounce of energy you can summon. (Taylor Hawkins, the Foo Fighters’ drummer, was dripping with sweat by the end of the show.) If it’s your business, make every presentation and every phone call as if your life depended on success.

People want to be passionate, and if you demonstrate your passion, they’ll follow. The Foo Fighters didn’t get 1,000 Italian rockers to do this by being timid.

  1. Nail the necessities.

If the guitars had been out of tune and the lights out of sync, no amount of showmanship would have saved the concert. The band and their team took care of the details, which made the show possible.

In business, you have to nail the essentials — product quality, marketing, customer service — or people won’t believe what you say, no matter what you spend on advertising. Tune out the noise, identify what makes your customers passionate about your product, and prioritize it.

  1. Be a team, and be grateful for it.

There is no song without drums. There is no song without bass. There is no song without rhythm guitar. The song exists in the unity of those aspects. Similarly, your team has to operate as an organism, with each part vital to its overall success. So give your team the chance to shine.

Dave paused to let his guitarist, Chris Shiflett, bring his son on stage to have the crowd sing “Happy Birthday” to him. Acknowledge your team members and be authentically grateful for your bandmates, both behind the scenes and on the stage.

  1. Be bigger than life and fearless.

People need to know you think differently and that you’re not afraid to do it. The CEO of CVS Pharmacy took a $2 billion loss by ceasing tobacco sales and giving free smoking-cessation support to customers to pivot the drug retailer into a healthcare company. A bold move, but for a healthcare company, the right one.

At the concert, I thought about how leaders who know they have supporters aren’t afraid to push the envelope. At the same time, to have gained ardent supporters in the first place, they needed to be fearless. The Foo Fighters’ approach to music has always been unique and has always been geared toward creating and maintaining diehard fans. Not many others would have been bold enough to create “an eight-city recording odyssey.” That fearlessness is part of why they have such passionate fans.

Say what you think, do what you believe, and you’ll have your fans on their feet to support you, too.

By Paresh Shah, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Glimpulse.

Cover Photo: Pres Panayotov/Shutterstock

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Paresh Shah
Paresh Shah is an experienced entrepreneur, inspiring corporate speaker, consultant, strategy and innovation expert, business professor, yoga instructor, motivational speaker, and dad of four kids.He’s the founder and CEO of Glimpulse, the Human Expression Company that creates products to challenge, inspire, and equip people to be happier and healthier by sharing the giving, loving impulse we all have.
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