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Uncommon Leadership: Lessons From Lady Gaga

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When you think of Lady Gaga, what comes to mind? Probably her musical talent (six Grammy awards so far), perhaps her outrageous wardrobe (meat dress, anyone?), maybe her unusual antics (the infamous awards show entrance in a giant egg). Only 28 years old and she has certainly made a name for herself.

But as Jackie Huba outlines in her book,Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers Into Fanatics, there’s much more to Lady Gaga than meets the eye. In fact, she proves an excellent case study in authenticity, service, and powerful leadership.

Unfamiliar with the book when I picked it up, I had few expectations. I merely hoped to get a bit of insight into why Gaga does what she does, but the introduction set my aim higher: “Lady Gaga’s business sense impresses me,” writes Huba, “but her passion for changing the world for the better through any means possible is what truly inspired me to study her.” Page after page, Huba shows how Lady Gaga takes extraordinary measures to make a difference to the causes and people that matter most to her.

A few lessons in uncommon leadership from Lady Gaga:

  • Focus on those who matter most. Have you ever heard hurtful criticism from someone you don’t even know – or maybe know and don’t respect – and let it bother you? Let it go. You’ll never please everyone, especially if you’re challenging the status quo. Focus on your mission, values, and those who matter most.
  • Start with why. Huba shows how Simon Sinek’s “golden circle” approach (start with why, then how, then what) applies to Lady Gaga’s work, and how we can bring it into our own work as well. Gaga’s why? “To transform the culture to create a kinder, braver world where everyone is valued.” Her why shines through everything she does, from her songs to her interviews to her Born This Way Foundation that empowers youth to build confidence and end bullying. 
  • Go big or go home. “No one talks about products or companies that are just average,” Huba shares. “The way Gaga sees it, whatever you are working on, you should blow it out.” Don’t let the fear of what others might say keep you from honoring your authenticity. Playing small or hiding your light serves no one.
     

Lady Gaga also reminds us of a key principle in leadership: it’s not about you. As it turns out, the meat dress, as well as her other attention-grabbing “stunts,” involve purposeful action: to support a cause, speak out against an injustice, or give a voice to those who might not otherwise be heard.

While you may not agree with nor want to attract the same kind of attention as Lady Gaga, her ability to connect deeply with and inspire her most engaged fans offers terrific leadership insight. “What I do [in my concerts],” she explained to MTV, “is, in essence, create an atmosphere for my fans where they don’t leave loving me, they leave loving themselves.”

Consider how you can more powerfully focus on those who matter most, start with why, and go big – all in service of a brighter, stronger world. Because remember: regardless of your title, fame, or the number of Grammys on your shelf, your leadership is not about you.

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