Career Advice from U2

By Christina Schlachter, PhD | CEO She Leads, Author of Leading Business Change for Dummies, and CWCC Member

I am a big U2 fan. This past year my husband and I saw U2 on their 360 tour at Mile High in Denver. I first saw U2 in 1987 when they played to a crowd of about 10,000 at the Assembly Hall in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. My husband and I also saw Bono, Larry, the Edge, and Adam jam together in Honolulu on our Babymoon back in 2006.

Their concert last year made me think: if a rock band can stay together for close to three decades, AND  have the ability to entertain a high school girl, a pregnant lady, and a couple on a date night, they have to be doing something right – and it is not just music. You don’t need a blogger to tell you that, right? I may not be a rock star, but these boys from Dublin have taught me a few valuable leadership skills.

1)      Treat everyone equally. According to those in the “know”, Adam, Larry, the Edge, and Bono all make the same amount of money. Yes, Bono is by and large a household name for U2 fans, and I have never been behind the scenes with my favorite rockstars, but Bono seems quite genuine when he tells the crowd he is in Larry Mullen Jr.’s band. If you want to build your own team of rock stars, everyone’s opinion and talents must be valued – both verbally and financially.

2)      Show up and perform every time. Anyone who has been at a U2 concert knows they do not “phone it in.” These guys come and they work their butt off. Leaders cannot expect to last for 3 decades if they do not do the work, expect others to do it for them, or assume their hard work in the past will make up for slacking today.

3)      Try new things, but if you do not succeed, stick to your strengths. Intentionally or not, I loved U2 in 87, I loved them in the 2000’s and I love them now. However, like many fans, Zooropa was, well just a little out there. I give U2 credit for trying something new, but their classics, new and old, are what make people get up, dance, scream, and buy tickets again and again. As a leader, there is no harm in pushing the envelope, but if your idea does not work, go back to what your customers love.

4)      Have purpose and show it. It should be no surprise that U2, especially Bono, is passionate about the One campaign and Amnesty International.  He is not just a rock star, he really does want to change the world. Whatever your passion and purpose, share it with everyone, care about something, and let your values guide every action you make.

Yes, U2 is a rock band. For some people that is all they need to be. As with everything in life, I always look for what I can learn from others, and since I cannot think of any other product or service I would pay 2x’s the value (or more) to see again and again over 3 decades, it is nice to know I can learn something about leadership from these boys from Ireland. Have a Beautiful Day!

About Dr. Christina Schlachter, PhD, is the Founder and Chief Leader of She Leads and is the author of Leading Business Change for Dummies (Wiley, 2012).  As the Leading Change Expert, she deliver sreal-world coaching for leaders who are tired of too much fire-fighting and are ready to create meaningful, positive, and lasting change. Used successfully by thousands of leaders worldwide, Christina’s matter-of-fact 12-week turnaround process has cemented her role in helping leaders reinvent both themselves and their companies.

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