If Harvard’s Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr., can offer a course in Leadership in Literature to the school’s MBA students–I propose there is value in the concept of leadership through theme songs. In recent years, Badaracco has also led discussions about serious literary fiction with executives at Harvard’s Business School. Badaracco uses literature to provide his students with well-rounded, complex pictures of leaders in all walks of life—leaders whose challenges, particularly psychological and emotional ones, parallel those of senior executives. In his classes, Dr Badaracco uses texts such as Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Sophocles’s Antigone, and Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer” to help students understand questions of leadership, decision making, and moral judgment. So… what about music?
About a year ago… my good friend John Tesh (sorry, that’s sarcasm, I don’t know John) had a piece on his radio show regarding the most off the wall interview questions.
- “If you were a superhero, who would you be and why?”
- “If you had a theme song that played every time you walked into a room, what would it be and why?”
- “On a scale of one to 10, how weird are you? Why did you choose that number?”
- “What was your best MacGyver moment?”
Of course there are no right or wrong answer to these questions… but they do cause you to pause and think. It is all about how well the individual can explain the answers selected, which in turn highlights reasoning skills. Bottom line: What matters is having an answer, and being able to explain why. But the why is interesting…
I am personally intrigued by all of the questions above and plan on incorporating these into some of my conversations at work, but the one that really stuck with me was the theme song, especially after listeing to Dr Badaracco on HBR’s Idea podcast. It stuck with me so much, I made a playlist on my iPhone titled “walk into the room.”
I am no physiologist, but it would seem that the choice of a theme song might say a good bit about about the individual; and if cast in the light of leadership, we can now take a deeper look at what makes a person tick.
So if we can agree that theme songs are important…and they are… what comes to your mind when you ponder a generic theme song? For me–there are many themes. James Bond, Star Wars, Jaws, Mission Impossible–what is interesting here is that the story can change, but the theme remains and sets the stage for what you are in for–adventure, suspense, terror, intrigue.
Perhaps your “Walk into the Room” playlist is the baseline for developing your personal leadership philosophy? What songs are in your theme playlist? Each side of a 12-inch LP (remember those?) could play for more than 20 minutes. If we figure 3-5 minutes per songs… you could fit maybe 5 on each side… so what 9-13 songs are in your playlist? What are your A-side and B-side tracks? What do they say about you as a leader?
I have been pondering mine for a good while and it is hard to get it down to 13 (well okay 14…my original playlist has 60), but here goes:
- People Are Strange: Now of course I really love The Doors original, but the Echo and the Bunnymen version from the Lost Boys OST is pretty awesome.
- Over the Hills and Far Away: Huge Zeppelin fan and the lyrics seem to be able to take on a myriad of meanings pending your season in life…no?
- Always the Sun (Son): The Stranglers…this one has always had a bit of play on words for me. The lyrics are powerful, but for me as a Christian… I can’t help by think there is always The Son…good reminder no matter what you do…where you do it, or when.
- Changes in Latitudes: Jimmy Buffett…a stellar “life” song and seems to resonate extremely well as a military member with all the world travels…Buffett’s line…so many nights I just dream of the ocean… or the sky…and wish I were flying again, but there is too much to see waiting in front of me…
- Tom Sawyer: Rush…I think that is all right here….click…
- Rebel Yell: Billy Idol….enough banter already…
- Life During War Time: Talking Heads
- First We Take Manhattan: Leonard Cohen
- In The Middle of Me: Todd Agnew
- You Might Die Trying: Dave Matthews
- I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For: U2
- Eminence Front: The Who
- All Along The Watchtower: Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix
- Red Shoes: Elvis Costello
The ultimate winner… if I had to pick one…. Eminence Front. I guess I need to break that one down in a future post.
Okay, so let the psycho-analyzing begin… but please… tell me yours… at least one song…come on man!