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What Concerts Teach Us About Leadership

Leaders Set The Stage

I love listening to live music. There's something magical about live performances that can't be captured in a recording. It's experiential. It's in the moment. After attending a concert recently, I was reflecting on how stage performers are leaders. Think about it, the singer on stage can command their audience (us) to do pretty much anything. And because of the raised stage, we as the concert goers, find ourselves literally looking up to them. If the performer tells us to jump, we jump. If they tell us to cheer, we cheer. They lead us and we follow them. Audience engagement is part of what makes a great performer. My favorite part of a concert is when the singer on stage points the microphone at the audience, encouraging us to sing along with them. When given the opportunity, any loyal fan will start singing at the top of their lungs. Something powerful happens when the performer hands over the mic to the audience. Strangers standing side by side suddenly become united, as they sing along to the same song.

Concert Fans Are A Tribe

What makes a fan, a fan? According to Merriam Webster, a fan is" an enthusiastic devotee". Great performers give us something to believe in, something to follow. The performer preaches a message and we (the fans) believe it. Sometimes we even become obsessed with it. Why else would we pay hundreds of dollars for concert tickets? While initially we're buying the ticket, what we're investing in is the experience. In doing so, we're united with the thousands of other followers who also want that experience. The concert goers (us) become a tribe, with the stage performer as our leader. Seth Godin, author of Tribes and marketing guru comments"A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” A concert venue (especially stadiums) can draw together a crowd of strangers from all walks of life; all united to see a performance.

Treat The Audience Well

Stage performers are in the spotlight. What they say and do is witnessed by everyone at the concert. This position comes with great power of influence. Which can have positive or negative outcomes. A good performer knows how to engage with us and enhance our experience. They have the platform to inspire and empower us, or turn us into anti-fans. Perhaps you heard about country music singer Miranda Lambert who stopped her concert to call out two girls taking a selfie. According to reports, Lambert said "I’m gonna stop right here for a second, I’m sorry. These girls are worried about their selfie and not listening to the song. It’s pissing me off a little bit". Based on this display, it seems Lambert cared more about herself than her fans. Instead of looking out at the crowd, she only focused on herself. As a result, some people left her concert. It's hard to imagine a stage performer not wanting their fans to take selfies at their concert, especially when they paid so much money to experience it. That's not how a true leader acts. Contrast this with country music singer Chris Janson, who at a recent concert started by saying how blessed he was to be there, and how grateful he was for his fans. Between those two scenarios, which audience do you think wanted to be there more? Which performer demeaned their audience and which one empowered them?

The Attitude Of The Performer Affects The Audience

The person on stage is a leader. Being in a position of leadership comes at a price. Any marvel fan knows the quote "with great power comes great responsibility". If you only ever look at yourself, you'll miss the other people in front of you. A performer is nothing without their audience. This makes their attitude and actions very important. A good stage performer knows how to embrace the moment with their fans. To make us feel connected. What "next levels" a concert is when we can feel close to the performer. When they can come down to our level. Think crowd surfing. Now that's an experience! When a stage performer starts by thanking their audience, it makes us want to be there. We feel appreciated and wanted. A sense of belonging with our fellow concert attendees. When a stage performer publicly humiliates us, the trust is broken and we want to leave. Just like how a singer entices us to sing their song lyrics back to them, they can also lead us in the way they conduct themselves. When they show gratitude, we show gratitude back. In psychology, it's called the mirror effect.

The Mirror Effect And Psychology

The mirror effect"refers to our tendency to adopt the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of those around us. Does the phrase "monkey see, monkey do" ring a bell? It follows the idea that we imitate what we see. This phenomenon is closely tied with another theory known as the chameleon effect (or unintentional mirroring). Done subconsciously, the chameleon effect is when one person mimics someone else's body language, hand gestures, and/or speaking accent. Imitation is a form of flattery as the saying goes. Interestingly enough, this is why a person will mirror the body image of another when they are attracted to them. From a scientific standpoint, one reason for this is mirror neurons ( neurons in the brain that fire off both when performing a task and observing someone else perform the same task). A great example of this is yawning. When we see someone yawn, often we yawn too. We imitate what we see. Studies have proven mirror neurons are necessary for learning by mimicking, along with having empathy skills.

Mirror Leaders And Stage Performers

There's this concept known as mirror leaders. It refers to how a leader reflects their behavior and impact onto others. In the case of concerts, a stage performer is a mirror leader. How they act and what they say is reflected onto their audience, which can have a positive or negative affect on them, on us. If they wave their hand, we wave ours back. I think it says a lot about a performer when they take the spotlight off themselves and shine it onto their audience (us). Elvis Presley was known for asking his stage crew to raise the house lights after each performance. He did this so he could clearly see the faces of his audience members. When a leader is given a stage or position of power, they have the ability to influence others. To influence us. No one wants to follow a self-absorbed leader. Think of your followers first, and they will think of you. That's what concerts can teach us about leadership.


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