Amercian Express, AMEX, authenticity, caviar, Donald Trump, followership, GOP, humility, I'm Crazy for You, insight, Leadership, Like a Virgin, listening, Madonna, Marco Rubio, Papa Don't Preach, vulnerability
You guessed it; I was at the Madonna Concert last night that is quickly becoming legend for the late arrival of the pop diva. Notified by the event management we arrived ‘fashionably late’ at 8.45 all geared up for the announced 9pm start. As it was, that meant a 12pm finish and a late (or should I say early) repose. Madonna graced us with her presence at a few minutes before 11.30pm and my head hit the pillow at 2.30am, pretty much blowing my productivity the day after and making me somewhat of a hazard driving home from work on a pretty meagre zzzz diet.
So there were two and three quarter hours we had to while away. Thanks to American Express this wasn’t as onerous as it might have been. Indeed, had it not been for access to the American Express cardholders lounge at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, we probably would have baled out before the concert started (like some people I know) throwing the $299 per ticket in the trash. So at a time when one person trashed their own brand – Madonna, another organisation – Amex once again stood out as a company that gets what it means to delight their customer.
Madonna on the other hand doesn’t seem to give a damn, or as she might more aptly call it ..a f*@k. It was a concert ridiculously punctuated with expletive ridden monologues which were Madonna’s forlorn endeavour to come across as some sort of freedom fighter, social evangelist and all round rebel with a cause. It didn’t work. The audience were treated to what amounted to no more than a cringe laden, school-girl giggly clichéd series of sexual innuendo (ooohh in your end Oh – you get the picture). The way she treated her two main protagonist dancers, both black, was heavy in racial stereo-typing and the production of a banana from the waist coat of one of them was to me offensive. Still it’s Madonna and she can get away with that, after all she is a freedom fighter right?
That made me ponder. Does anyone in her entourage vet this stuff and call it for what it is, or does she have a sycophantic coterie that tell her exactly what she wants to hear? Madonna, it appears to me, puts herself in the rarefied air of someone so special that she affords herself a license that few others would be given. She is the caviar of the music world – a multi-million selling recording artist who has successfully traversed the vagaries of musical trends across four decades. Amazing given she is actually a child of the 1950s. This seems to afford her certain rights not available to us mere mortals.
While spending time in the Amex lounge I went on Twitter and caught up with the day’s events which was pretty much dominated by the US Primaries. There were numerous news organisations reporting on the recent wins by Trump progressing him further and further towards winning the GOP nomination. What characterises Trump’s campaign is a kind of aggression that appears to appeal to a certain segment of the US population. This in turn is causing riotous behaviour at the various rallies associated with Trump. Trump has quite often suggested that someone should be punched in the face and on more than one occasion his ‘disciples’ have followed through on this. Why wouldn’t they? Here is a leader, possibly soon to be the most powerful person in the world, advocating a behaviour that they are only too willing to carry out if it is given sanction.
Leadership requires many things. We often describe it as the ability to take people with you, as well as persuade many to your particular point of view. Quite often successful leaders don’t make good leaders if success is defined by the size of the following you garner. Hitler after all had much of the German nation in his thrall but that did not make him a good leader. Madonna in her own way is a leader. She has influenced many generations of women, and has advocated a more direct approach on issues of sexuality and equality. That doesn’t make her a good leader. Other attributes are necessary to tick all the boxes in the leadership stakes.
To be honest I have never been a great fan of the leadership as a discipline in its own right brigade. Leadership to me is a subset of effective management. To take it away from management suggests that it is the preserve of a select few, an elite, and this propagates the view that leaders are born and not made. Leadership has a set of skills that can be learned and with practice true leadership results. Some of the hallmarks of good leadership are:
- Humility – knowing when to take your foot off the pedal of self-promotion and narcissism;
- Listening – to get advice and to shape this into the way you behave;
- Followership – if you were never a good follower at some stage what insights do you have over your dominions?
- Broad Shoulders – if you put yourself in front you need to be prepared to take on board the slings and arrows of criticism and to handle this with grace. People who do not agree with you aren’t necessarily stupid;
- Being an example – knowing that people are watching means you have to do right and to be seen to do right; a plain fact so many in Office get wrong;
- Sticking around – people want to see you there through thick and thin. If you bail out and move on then people do not get exposed to the true you;
- Vulnerability – no-one is full proof and no-one is the complete person so showing the areas where you are not strong but get the necessary assistance to cover for this deficit provides comfort to those who follow you. This is not a prophet we follow after all; it is a human being;
- Insight – you need to understand the power of your words and actions over those who have vested in you their hopes and aspirations;
- Authenticity – if you cannot show the true you the audience for your ideas or leadership will spot it pretty easily and your following may well be based on fear and not a genuine desire to be led.
Neither Trump nor Madonna appear to display many of these characteristics. When Trump talks about people who decry his campaign he labels them, especially female reporters, as idiots and advocates they get beaten up. His rival Marco Rubio was ‘Little Marco’ in some strange reference to his genitalia. Last night Madonna made reference to genitalia on a number of occasions and also suggested that the audience should fight for the bouquet she was about to throw into the audience and that the person who got it should be punched in the nose.
Like and respect are the two emotions that followers afford their leaders. Neither I would give to either. Surely they know the impact of what they say? If not it is the responsibility of those around them to provide wise counsel. Blind adoration is not what we do when we anoint a leader. I suspect that Trump and Madonna wouldn’t be happy knowing this. When the Primaries get to the later stages where it really matters I don’t think the chorus in Cleveland are going to be singing to Donald ‘We’re Crazy for You!’ If upbraided for being late at concerts Madonna may well regale us with ‘Papa don’t preach.’ Here’s my response from a one-time admirer. ‘I’ve been losing sleep!”