Leadership lessons from Eric Clapton and other musings from the NASBA CPE Conference
While I was in Las Vegas for the NASBA CPE Conference, I took my family to see Eric Clapton live at MGM's hotel and casino. Clapton was fantastic! His band included two young proteges, Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II -- both great blues / rock guitarists in their mid-20s.
At 62, Clapton stayed on stage for a solid two hours, playing oldies from his days with Derek & the Dominos (think 60's). His set started with "Tell the Truth," followed by some of his greatest blues classics like "Key to the Highway," "Driftin' Blues" and "Further on Down the Highway." The middle set included a few acoustic songs like "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" and "Runnin' on Faith." The closing songs were Clapton mega hits -- "You Look Wonderful Tonight," "Layla," "Cocaine" and "Crossroads."
My absolute favorite was "Little Wing" (also done by Jimi Hendrix). Almost all of the songs featured great guitar renditions by all three guitarists -- Clapton, Bramhill and Trucks. You can read reviews here. If you like listening to guitars sing, this was the concert to be at.
Here is where the leadership lessons come in...
Lead from any seat (from the Art of Possibility)
Here I was watching a living legend giving the limelight to these two young up-and-comers. Clapton was genuinely enthusiastic about hearing their interpretations of his music. I was fascinated by how freely he gave up the stage to these two guitarists. Trucks and Bramhill were both amazing musicians -- each with his own unique style, yet in the same genre as Clapton. The question that went though my mind was: How can we as leaders let our young people have the spotlight and show us their talents? Are we giving them enough freedom and empowerment to really perform a their best?
As I read the concert program, I got a glimpse inside Clapton's approach. He says, "... Strangely enough, bringing in new faces has allowed me to try some material from my deep past. ... I guarantee that whatever you hear will be definitely played with feeling."
What can we learn from EC's approach? Are we leading in a way that encourages feeling and passion for the jobs and mission of our companies and firms?
Then I listened to one of our newest Business Learning Institute instructors, Dan Morris of Verasage Institute (a colleague of Ron Baker, value pricing guru) deliver the Day 2 session on "How to Correct CPE Attention Deficit Disorder." Dan gave a unconventional but thought-provoking session on engaging CPAs and making CPE interactive and meaningful. But the "ah-ha" moment hit me when he recommended one of his "greatest books," The Art of Possibility by Ben Zander. Zander tells a story in the book about leadership and the concept that leadership is a lot more than just the man or woman out in front. (He uses a conductor of the symphony as his metaphor.)
There is an excerpt in the book from one of Zander's music students that says it all:
"Today was exceptional in that I learned leadership is not a responsibility -- nobody has to lead. It's a gift. shining silver, that reminds people huddled nearby why each shimmering moment matters. It's in the eyes, the voice, this swelling song that warms up the toes and tingles with endless possibilities. Things change when you care enough to grab whatever you love, and give it everything." (Pg. 74)
How much greatness are we willing to grant? How do we instill passion, enthusiasm and even love into the people we lead?