September 10, 2015
What We Can Learn About Leadership From Taylor Swift

For Christmas last year, my daughter, Dara, and her boyfriend, Mike, gave our family tickets to the Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour concert in Washington D.C. I am not a Taylor Swift fan by any stretch of the imagination; but I sensed immediately upon receiving these tickets that this concert was both a gift and an opportunity for our entire family to be together.

As I said, going into the concert, I was not necessarily a fan; but I have to admit, that all of that has changed – not because I think any more of her musical talent, but because I was struck immediately by this young artist’s natural ability to lead.

In the two hours we spent with Taylor, I saw boldness, fearlessness, and authenticity; I saw a young woman practicing principles of leadership and with a personal power to live that leadership for one of the largest generations our country has ever seen.

Agility And Authenticity

Taylor started this D.C. show 45 minutes early due to weather forecasts. Not wanting to short-change her fans, she made an executive decision to change the start time. This lesson is two-fold: This decision not only shows her and her team’s commitment to the fans, but on top of it being a lesson in real-time agility and what it means to lead authentically. It was clear immediately that she runs the show, and she’s in charge of her concert, her brand, her life. Things don’t happen to her; the looming weather wasn’t going to happen to her; she managed it.

How often as leaders are you paying attention to all of the forecasts in your world and willing to make bold executive decisions different from the original plan, as to make the most of your opportunities based on a new forecast? How often do you manage situations versus feeling you are being managed by situations?

“Hi everyone; I’m Taylor”: Connect Immediately; Connect Consistently

Despite the fact that there were 45,000 people in the stadium, Taylor found an innovative way to connect with each person in the audience before the show even began. She did something different that allowed her to see the light in each audience member – literally and figuratively. Upon entry, each member of the audience received a wristband that looked very similar to a FitBit.

When she came out on stage, she opened with a simple line: “Hi everyone; I’m Taylor” almost opening the concert like a conversation, meeting a new friend, introducing yourself for the very first time.

Then, throughout the concert, those wristbands lit up in different colors at different times. Not only did it help her to see all of us, it helped us to see each other, regardless of where we were in the stadium – all a spirit she captured the moment she walked out on stage.

As a leader, where can you connect or reconnect? What can you do to see and harness the light and passions of your teams and clients? How can you support your teams and clients in seeing the light and passion in each other?

Engagement At An Entirely Different Level

Taylor ‘s authenticity was immediately apparent; she maintained that spirit consistently when she chose to speak with her audience in a real, fearless, bold, authentic way about things that mattered to her and to her audience. She spoke about the power of music in whatever situation we find ourselves in, the importance of self-love and acceptance, the importance of inclusion and meeting others where they are. In doing so, her engagement became her platform – a unique platform where she uses her music and her voice to serve a generation of young women and girls, engaging them in a conversation that will transform how they see each other and how they seem themselves.

As a leader, how are you speaking to the common purpose and hearts of those you are leading? How are you helping others discover the power of purpose as individuals and teams? How are you helping your clients and customers with the same?

Share The Stage; Spread The Wealth

Taylor is emerging as an artist and as an industry leader, not only bringing other popular artists on stage with her, but also giving new, emerging artists a chance to shine as opening acts for her. She sports a relatively balanced ego and has enough confidence in herself that she is not just willing but eager to provide a platform for others. At the end of her show she did something I have never seen done except at the end of a stage play or musical – she brought her back-up dancers and band up on stage with her to hold hands and take a bow – together. She recognizes the contributions of others in her success and publicly acknowledges it.

As a leader, how can you do more to share the stage, spread the wealth, and give credit where credit is due both publicly and privately?

Say Thank You

Taylor thanked her audience for inviting her and for choosing to spend our money and our evening with her multiple times throughout the evening. This is powerful for several reasons: First, she recognizes the power of her fans and thanks them authentically; secondly, she knows her success and her brand’s empire would not exist without them.

How often and how authentically are you thanking those that support you? We all thrive by the support that others provide to us. What can you do to thank your teams for coming, participating and contributing to your success and that of your organization?

Self-reflection And Mindfulness Leads To Courageous Leadership:

Taylor Swift is no longer a country music singer. She is a powerhouse brand that provides broad musical entertainment and value. She reflects openly, daring to challenge herself and those around her. Her confidence, curiosity, and courage was palpable that I could picture her asking herself: “What next?”, “Why not?”, “How come”? She appears to make her choices consciously, and she takes responsibility for the choices she makes. She shows up consistently in alignment with her values. She trusts her voice.

Her brand is clear. Her voice is clear. Her vision is clear. And all this is courageous leadership to me. What are you doing to incorporate reflection and mindfulness as daily practices? How are your decisions and actions aligned with your values? How clear and focused is your brand?

When it comes to leadership, that was one impressive show with the power to transform not only the audience in the moment, but also a generation of followers.

Gail Angelo
Gail Angelo is a leader of leaders: equipped with an extraordinarily intuitive, yet practical approach that enables those she works with to move from wishing and hoping to doing and attaining - from boring to bold - Gail empowers her clients to act as the owners of their leadership goals. Her experience and powers of perception allow her to help executives identify their true strengths, eliminate negativity and create strategies with clear action steps that lead to success and fulfillment for her clients.

Other Articles by Gail Angelo:

4 Keys To Leading With Courage

Stop Trying To Do Everything: Practicing The Lost Art Of Delegation

Leaders And Urgency Addiction: A Love Story