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Seb Anthony

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Leadership lessons from Bob Dylan?


As the poet, singer, songwriter and artist Bob Dylan hits the age of 70, you can’t help but look back on his career and take in one of, what seems like, thousands of documentaries on his colourful life so far.

One in particular caught my eye, a BBC video that showed the influence that Dylan had all the way through his career, and I couldn’t help but think about the qualities he has shown as a leader. Not a leader of a government or a leader of a large business, but instead a leader of people – he was responsible for getting the word across, whether it via a protest song or a song about racial pre-conceptions in America.

Today we talk about leaders leading with passion and heart, and if they do that they can’t help but spread that energy and momentum across the organisation. We all know how awesome a force it would be to have a workplace that actually works with heart, rather than just their hands or head. No doubt it was Dylan’s passionate song writing and performing (as well as this absolute determination to get his message across) that built him such a dedicated following. And they listened to him.

Then, what about bravery? We talk constantly about leaders having to have courageous conversations at the workplace and encourage others to do the same. Just like the archetypical leader in the modern corporate arena, Dylan took risks for the good of his cause. When he famously plugged in his guitar at Newport there were cries of “Judas”, but he stuck to his decision and his fan base and following only grew.

It has been said that much of his success as a young musician was born out of his focussed determination and ability to wear those that counted down until they gave him the break he needed. Why did he stick at it? Simple, he believed in what he was doing and had an incredible desire to be heard.

Love him or hate him, you can’t help but notice the impact the man has had on music and much of the world. And, putting our leadership hats on quickly, he has demonstrated the power of working with your heart and taking brave decisions with the bigger picture in sight.

James Pentreath
Our latest whitepaper: Leadership Development Programme


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