"People may ask, “Why do you have to blog? Why not just reflect?”
When you reflect on your own, you are accountable to yourself.
When you blog, you are accountable to yourself and others.
Others need to hear your voice."
Yes, that's Adam Levine and I was 7 rows up from the stage when this blog post started writing itself in my head. As I watched the concert, I couldn't help noticing how EVERYTHING I saw was a leadership lesson unfolding right in front of me.
I've been reflecting a lot lately on what it means to lead like a rockstar. And how it has nothing to do with flash or sparkle or being larger than life. At a recent CUE Rockstar Admin camp at Skywalker Ranch, a superintendent asked if we really want districts and schools to be filled with rockstar leaders. Such a great question, and it really got me thinking. In that moment, I realized that I may have created a perception that leading like a rockstar means something I did not intend. That you have to dance every day. That you need a disco ball speaker. That you need to go on a slide. These are things I do, but it's not really what leading like a rockstar is really about at it's core. But I couldn't really find the words to explain it.
Until last night.
And so, here is my reflection.
Leadership lessons from Maroon 5.
1. Be All In.
From the moment Maroon 5 hit the stage, they were all in for almost two hours straight. Intense. Focused. Passion and energy permeated the arena, all the way to the roof. As leaders, we need to be all in for our schools, and every day we need to bring passion and energy and an intense focus on our work so that we can make school the best we can for kids. Even when we are tired and feel like we can't. Last night's concert was the second to the last date on the entire tour, and the whole band was all in like it was the first night.
What does 100% engagement look like? Last night it was 19,000 people on their feet dancing and singing for the entire Maroon 5 show. "Isn't that what you do at a concert?" you ask? Yes, it is, but for the two opening acts, even with the flashing lights and sound, I actually don't recall seeing anyone on their feet, and certainly not the whole place. Why was it different with Maroon 5? Because we know and love the band and the songs! Isn't this when you get 100% engagement in classrooms? When kids know and love their teacher and are excited about the content? When it's being delivered in an engaging way? When the classroom culture is established so that all kids are all in for their learning? It doesn't have to be flashy, either. It could be 100% of kids fully immersed in books on the floor and around their classroom. Maroon 5 had us 100% engaged the whole time. All 19,000 of us. Unreal. A real-life, four C's, totally rad lesson plan rolled out before me. If only school felt like the video for Sugar when Maroon 5 crashed several weddings in one day!
My seats were actually somewhat behind the stage which gave me an awesome behind the scenes view- we could see the artists coming from below the arena, the movement of equipment, and even the fog machine. Behind the curtain, and on the stage, countless people were responsible for the incredible show- each with an important role. The kind of magic Maroon 5 displayed doesn't happen by accident, and is the result of hard work by a ton of people who we may never even see. In addition to the arena staff, there were at least 11 people on or around the stage, probably more, changing out guitars, pushing buttons, changing the lights, checking sound levels and playing in the band. Adam Levine celebrated his crew multiple times during the show, calling several out by name, and being sure we all screamed loudly to appreciate them. As leaders, we must celebrate our crew-- every person on our campus plays an important piece in the "show" we put on every day. Everyone --the maintenance team, campus supervisors, food services, office staff, the IT team, teachers, instructional assistants, parents, and students. How can we intentionally celebrate our crew every day? We need to show appreciation in big and small ways so that everyone feels valued and important. Little notes, a hug, a thank you, a complimentary email, or even a public shout out on your Twitter or Facebook can make a huge difference.
4. It's HARD work and it's worth it
At the start of the show, Adam had on a flannel type shirt. After about 10 minutes in he ripped that off and the crowd went wild! While everyone else was thinking about the fact that he had ripped his shirt off, of course I was writing this blog post in my head... and I thought about how when we are all in and bringing our best for kids, it is HARD work! It's messy, and although we don't necessarily get hot and sweaty like the band, we can sometimes be exhausted by it all. Did Adam complain that he was getting hot? No way! Adam took off his shirt, got comfortable, and settled in for the rest of the show. In reality he was in the midst of a two hour physical workout- all so we could have this MAGICAL experience. Our days can feel like a Maroon 5 level workout sometimes, but the kids are worth it! And we all have it in us to dig deep even when it's getting a little hot on the job :)
When I think of Maroon 5, I think of Adam. He's the name I know, the guy in the spotlight. The rest of the crew is important, but every band has a leader out in front, setting the tone and having the conversation with the crowd. Last night it was Adam Levine, and in our schools it's usually the superintendent or principal who is the public face, the person who sets the tone for the whole school or organization. Being the front man means being vulnerable sometimes. Last night, during the encore set, Adam introduced his new song that had been released the day before and he talked about how he was nervous about that. Adam Levine nervous? I would never have thought that, but I love that he shared it. Sometimes it's tough to be in the spotlight, to be the front man. To be vulnerable. But we desperately need strong leaders with clear vision and big hearts and dreams to be out in front for our kids.
After the last song of the show, the band exited the stage. People kept clapping and cheering, hoping for an encore. I saw lights flickering around the stage, and for a moment thought it was the lights of cell phones leaving the arena. I kept watching and I noticed that no one was leaving. No one. Everyone wanted more. As a person who has attended many, many games and watched arenas empty before the final buzzer just to avoid traffic, I was stunned. No one wanted to leave. The lights? It was cell phones lit up like lighters from the past signaling them to come back out for a song or two. We wanted more Maroon 5 magic. More passion. More music. This was perhaps the biggest a ha of the night for me. How can we make school feel like this for kids? That they love it so much they can't wait to arrive each day? How can we make our organization a place people will never want to leave? To really build culture in schools and districts you need to hire and retain the best people. I left last night feeling even more committed to being a leader who makes school a place that people love to be a part of, committed to building relationships with staff, students, and families as a top priority every day.
I never expected last night's concert to inspire a post about leadership lessons. There are REAL rockstars, like Maroon 5 and Adam Levine, and there are rockstar leaders. As I shared before, leading like rockstar has really nothing to do with a disco ball speaker or dancing with kids every day, although those are things that I do to set the tone in our school, there are SO many amazing school leaders out there who embrace rockstar leadership in different ways. Some are all in, being the front man, and doing the hard work in rolling out new technology in their school or working hard on analyzing data to inform instruction so that every student grows. Some are celebrating their crews by making phone calls home for awesome kids or writing positive notes to students. And all of them are learners- being inspired by and taking note of what others are doing in their schools and organizations so they can try the ideas in their own schools. I always say that the best things happening in my school are inspired by what I have learned from others. Even Adam Levine is inspired by other rockstars :)
Leadership Lesson: You are the real rockstars.