How to be a „rock star leader”: 3 lessons in leadership extracted by Gianpiero Petriglieri from Bruce Springsteen's autobiography

By HR CLUB on 29 January 2018

There is a special kind of boss. The one who fills up every room with their big ego and even bigger heart. Who voices the hard truths without making you lose hope, and makes you work harder and feel lighter for it. We often call such bosses “rock stars,” to underscore their popular appeal. Among actual rock stars, however, there has long been only one Boss – Bruce Springsteen. And Gianpiero Petriglieri, the special guest of HR Club Gala 2018,  has extracted 3 lessons in leadership from his autobiography, that we will present below.

1. To Hold People’s Attention, Serve Their Imagination

“The guy standing next to you is more important than you think he is. And that man or woman must come to the same realization about the man or woman standing next to him or her, about you. Or: everyone must be broke, living far beyond their means and in need of hard currency. Or: both.” The best business schools’ curricula recommend a similar blend of empathy and incentives nowadays.

And if you are fortunate enough to be entrusted with leadership — that is, with imagination on others’ behalf — Springsteen is clear on what you are meant to do: “I am here to provide proof of life to that ever elusive, never completely believable us.”

2. Let Purpose Find Your Craft

While the young Springsteen honed his craft every night in bars on the Jersey Shore, he enjoyed his growing popularity but felt that something was missing. “Part of getting there,” the most elusive of all Springsteenian ideals, “is knowing what to do with what you have and knowing what to do with what you DON’T have,” he writes.

Purpose gives sense and direction to a working life spent on the road but, Springsteen’s story cautions, does not spare you torment. There is plenty throughout his life and work: the torment of depression, a struggle with his inner demons; the torment of talent, a struggle with the sense that he could always do more; the torment of service, a struggle with shouldering others’ pain. If he often fails to make sense of that torment, at least he succeeds in making use of it.

3. Love Will Make You Better. Reflection Will Make You Last.

You must cultivate self-awareness to become a better leader. No admonishment is less questionable than that, and an autobiography could easily be framed as an attempt to follow it. But Springsteen’s turns the fetish of self-awareness around.

Self-reflection, Springsteen seems to say, echoing Hamlet’s lesson, is not simply meant to help. Reflection tortures you with doubts. It slows you down. It is not meant to make you a better act. It is meant to make your act last. How? By forcing you to sit still when it would be easier to act out. By making you stay present to your questions so that your dream does not turn into obsession.

Should you want to discover other interesting concepts about being a better leader, come to the Master Class delivered by Gianpiero Petriglieri on April 4th, 2018, before the HR Club Gala. Find out more about our guest here.

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