A few years ago I had the honor of producing a televised concert series. This series took place over three nights, exhibiting eighteen musical acts, representing everything from a four-piece band combos to an eighty member gospel choir, and a cadre of comedians often scheduled as tightly as every fifteen minutes in a 25,000 coliseum.
During the series, most of the performers were courteous, professional and amazingly flexible. These were the leaders.
However, I found that a surprising number of artists turned out to be what might euphemistically be called difficult; behaving as if the entire night was planned around their performance alone. They were demanding, inflexible and uncooperative. One singer refused to go on stage, “copping a ‘tude” (as we used to call it), until he was served a cup of coffee from a specific coffee shop. It did not seem to occur to these performers, or even matter, that we were trying to juggle scores of entertainers and create a seamless show for a SOR (standing room only) audience. While these performers “thought” they were leaders, they were actually followers.
But here’s the interesting corollary – the performers who behaved the most professionally (the leaders) also happened to be the best and most popular on-stage. Those who were the most uncooperative and demanding (the followers) turned out to be mediocre performers at best. I am convinced that there was no accident in that.
What made the difference?
The leaders showed up to the afternoon sound-check on-time and prepared. They arrived early for the performance, were courteous, friendly, and open to suggestions. These artists were a delight to work with. Cooperative could easily describe their attitude. These leaders were looking for ways to advance the show and not themselves. Their portion ran smoothly, and they ended up looking good. Give and it shall be given unto you.
It’s true – when you help others, you help yourself.
Having worked in all sorts of production applications, I have seen artists and crew alike have a silo mentality, acting as if “theirs” was the only area that mattered. The same is true for any gathering of groups. Take Congress, for instance, where the needs (or wants) of a single district or state can hold up the needs of the entire nation. They call it gridlock.
In each of these situations only a leader can break the stalemate and end the silo building and be a bridge builder.
We all need to be mindful of those around us. It has been famously suggested that we need to think globally and to act locally. Well, that truth applies to each of us whether our globe is our home, our show, our workplace, our team, or our nation.
We are all in this together and as a leader you are called to consider others first before considering yourself. In Star Trek language, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”