The Boss is back! You don’t have to be lucky or rich enough to have a ticket to see his current tour to be the kind of leader Bruce is. When I saw Springsteen on Broadway, I saw him do five things consistently that have a lot to do with the show’s, and Bruce’s, unmatched success.
If you follow Bruce’s lead, you will be a rock star in your own right.
1. Look At People When You Talk With Them
One of the most common observations about a Springsteen concert is: “I felt like he was talking right to me.” How can someone playing to thousands of people make each person feel so special?
It starts with how Bruce treats the audience: he looks directly at people. Unless you’re in the bleachers at Dodger Stadium, if you’re anywhere within Bruce’s eyesight, you feel he’s looking right at you, because he probably is, at least some of the time.
Looking directly into someone’s eyes the entire time you’re speaking with them is creepy. But if you’re constantly looking at everything but the person in front of you, you come across as distant, aloof and not interested in your interlocutor.
Be like Bruce. Connect with each person you speak with.
2. Speak, Then Listen
How many times have you felt as though you were on the receiving end of someone’s monologue during a conversation on the phone or in person? If only that person was as impressed with you as they are with themselves.
In Springsteen on Broadway, Bruce stops from time to time to gauge his effect on the audience. He speaks, stops, gets a sense of how what he just said has landed and then continues based on the cues he’s gotten from the audience.
There’s a constant feedback loop during the show, and that’s how every good conversation proceeds: back and forth, ebb and flow, speaking and listening. How long do you think Monologue Marlon or Self-Absorbed Sally would have lasted fronting a rock band? Not as long as Bruce has.
Be like Bruce. Shut yer yap once in a while.
3. Acknowledge Who Has Helped You Succeed
About three-quarters of the way into the solo show, Bruce singles out everyone in the E Street Band and gives special attention to Patti Scialfa, who is both a member of the band and Bruce’s wife.
This is humility in action. Bruce may write the music and lyrics to his songs and command the stage from beginning to end, but without the contributions of Steve Van Zandt, Garry Tallent, Roy Bittan, Max Weinberg, Scialfa, Nils Lofgren, and the late Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons, as well as the distinguished musicians who preceded them, Bruce admits that he wouldn’t have gotten to where he is today.
Which are your team members more likely to think to themselves or say to you: “Stop thanking me so much” or “I really appreciate how grateful you always are about what I do”?
Be like Bruce. Give credit where credit is due.
4. Do What You Do Best
Could there be any expression more trite than this? No. Could there be any expression that is more likely to be the basis of your success than this? Absolutely not.
Imagine Bruce as an opera singer, ballet dancer, hockey player or financial analyst. It’s impossible to envision him in any of these roles without laughing out loud. But no one laughed last night when he sauntered onto the stage of the Walter Kerr theater to play “Growing Up” on an acoustic guitar and tell stories about his family.
Bruce Springsteen wasn’t born to run. He was born to touch the hearts and souls of people through the gifts of songwriting and performing that he was given and then developed.
Be like Bruce. Find out what you were put on earth to do, and if it’s not what you’re doing now, figure out how to get to the promised land. I know this is easier said than done, but just think of what the world would have missed if Bruce had spent his whole life as a third-tier dancer in a ballet company near Freehold, New Jersey.
5. Know When To Exit
Springsteen on Broadway is a two-hour show without an intermission. Although Bruce’s rock concerts have stretched beyond four hours, which is great for a stadium event, his New York show is just the right length. It’s long enough to be a deep dive into his life, but you don’t find yourself saying, “When the heck is this dadgummed thing going to end?” You leave wanting more.
Isn’t that how you’d like others to regard their time with you?
Whether you’re giving a talk, having an in-person/phone/Skype conversation or attending a social gathering, you should stick around just long enough to be a welcome presence.
We all know people who don’t know when to end a phone call. “Oh, and one more thing,” they add, while you catch up on your online Scrabble game and pretend to listen to their logorrhea.
Be like Bruce. Know when it’s time to go.
There. I said all I needed to say, so it's time for me to go, too. Thank you for reading this.
To lead like Bruce Springsteen:
1. Look at people when you talk to them
2. Speak, then listen
3. Acknowledge who has helped you succeed
4. Do what you do best
5. Know when to exit
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Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D.
The Ethics Guy®
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