The Bama Lamas and Rock-n-Roll Leadership

Originally published on LinkedIn – August 29, 2015

Written 8.23.2015

Last night I went to a little rock show in downtown Chicago. I wouldn’t say I go to a lot of shows, but maybe for a suburban father of 3, I go to more than some. Truly, I’ve always loved live music and wished to be the one on stage. I think that has attributed to both my love of Karaoke (don’t judge me) and my love to lead teams. I enjoy the stage.

I can thank my good friend, neighbor and truly an amazing musician, Dave Suh, for my new found love of attending Chicago rock shows. He’s our neighborhood rock star.

Last night, however, was different kind of show.  Last night I watched a different kind of rock band and I learned some really interesting lessons that I felt obliged to share.  The Bama Lamas say they are “Down & dirty hip-shakin’ old school Rock & Roll / R&B. Good and greasy the way it was meant to be played.”  They were the first show at 9pm. As we moved to the back of the bar, the music venue portion of the building, I expected a a few dozen or so folks standing in the back tapping their feet. That’s pretty much the rock scene as best I can tell.  I’m pretty good at that part.

What I saw, however, was epic. All six members were in dark suits, skinny ties and red Fez hats. By their second song there were at least 75 people in attendance and 25 were front and center dancing like it was An American Bandstand. These guys were working the crowd and putting on an amazing stage show.

So why am I telling you about some late night Chicago adventure?

Because what these guys do is what we as leaders should all do. I said, ‘these guys are gimmicky (something I’ve heard musicians say) but any gimmick that packs a house at 9pm and has people dancing I’m 100% behind.’  Truly, may I be that gimmicky.

When it comes to leadership:

Do What You Love

The Bama Lamas are singing music that sounds 60 years old, reminding me of “The Mashed Potato” or “Louie Louie”, but it’s not. It’s new fresh original music. They just got together, decided what they loved and did it. And low and behold a whole lot of people love it too. Are you doing what you love? If the answer is no, then find out how you can. Some days I love what I do and some days are hard, but the good outweigh the bad. And I love to write, so I fill that part of my soul doing this stuff right here.

Commit 100%

It would have been easy for the Bama Lamas to roll in in jeans or cargo shorts and t-shirts. Why not, right? It’s a tiny venue with an $8 dollar cover. They’re not making a fortune. But that’s not who these guys are. They are rocking the suits and 50s ties and then top it off with swinging tassels on their red fez hats. And I looked them up, they always rock that way. They are committed to their music and the brand of the band, going all out. Are you going all out in all you do? I’m not talking just about the way you dress, but the way you show up in all you do.  Or are you letting some of who you are slide away for fear of being judged? Of being different? Do what’s right, be yourself and commit 100%.

Appreciate Those That Appreciate You

I was so impressed by the showmanship of this band I immediately went to purchase their record (yeah they had vinyl for sale). I stood by the table and waited until the keyboardist stopped by. I told him how much I enjoyed the show and said quote, “It was like a scene from ‘Animal House’.” He immediately grabbed the lead singer and said, ’meet this guy, he loved the show. Let’s grab the guys and get this LP autographed.” At some point in the evening every member of the band said hello and thanked me for the support. They know what I know, show appreciation for those that appreciate you. Give your time, attention and thanks to those that build you up and in turn, build them up.

Not Everyone Will Dance

Now as much as I loved this band, my wife did not. She has excellent taste in music, better than me by far. She didn’t hate them, mind you. It just wasn’t her scene. I grew up with my parents playing old rock and roll and I can relate those experiences to this band and the experience they provide. Their rock-a-billy style resonates with me and I respond to it. My wife doesn’t have the same background and it did not resurface those same feelings.

Leadership can sometimes be the same way. The way you lead may not resonate with everyone. Some need more direction or strict boundaries, a more traditional drum beat and some power chords. As a leader you do have to modify your style to a degree to grow people in different ways, but that doesn’t mean you abandon your sound. Just like the Bama Lamas, some people are going to dance to your style, flourish under your guidance, and some aren’t.

All you can do is keep on rocking. Who knew a little rock-n-roll could teach so much?

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