Three Traits of Rock Star Leaders

Steve Jones

Three Traits of Rock Star Leaders

Now more than ever, you need a rock star personal brand.

That feeling people have about who you are, what you stand for, and what to expect from you is your personal brand. Whether you like it or not, you have a personal brand. Instead of ignoring your personal brand, the wiser choice is to embrace it. Accept and understand that those around you will form perceptions about you, and take proactive steps to positively reinforce the perceptions that can help you as a leader and entrepreneur. By examining the careers of legendary rock stars U2, The Grateful Dead, and George Harrison we can find three key ways to elevate your personal brand to “rock star” status.

Always Be Growing

U2 made it a career mission to always grow and learn.  When the band first gathered together, they quickly learned that they weren’t good enough to play cover versions of the songs they loved. They were forced to write their own songs, simple enough for them to play. As they became more proficient and famous, they continued to learn. They studied American R&B and incorporated those influences into their Rattle & Hum album. And when the band became sidetracked by experiments with electronic music and industrial sounds in the late 1990s, they held themselves accountable and declared their intention to “reapply for the job as the best rock band on the planet”. They lived up to that, going into the studio and creating some of their best music in a decade.

Like U2, it should be the quest of every CEO, leader, and entrepreneur to create a culture of perpetual growth, for themselves and for their team. Each success and failure should be deconstructed and used as a learning tool. And when things don’t go as planned, great leaders do exactly what U2 did when things messed up. They hold themselves accountable and declare their next move with confidence and authority.

Always Be Giving

The Grateful Dead became one of rock’s top grossing bands in the 70s and 80s, yet they only had one top ten hit song. You hardly ever heard Grateful Dead songs on the radio. The Dead became so successful through generosity. They went against every piece of music industry advice and offered their fans the chance to record and share their concerts. Instead of cutting into ticket sales, as industry experts predicted it would, it grew the band’s fan base. As fans shared the music with their friends, new fans were created. The Grateful Dead also created rock’s first large-scale fan club, which became known as The Deadheads. By giving their core fans free music, samples of what they were working on, and insight into the band’s inner circle, they created a powerful bond between the band and their followers.

Great leaders are never afraid to share their experience and knowledge. While some perceive sharing and giving to be a threat to their own position, rock star leaders understand that generosity almost universally results in positive growth for all involved. Generosity can apply to money, but it also applies to information, ideas, goals, and unfinished concepts in development. Even sharing confidential knowledge with a small trusted team usually results in a better final product.

Always Be Gathering

As famous as he was from his days with The Beatles, George Harrison loved to gather talented people together and share the glory. In 1971 he hosted the first major charity concert, The Concert for Bangladesh, bringing together Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Badfinger, and Ringo Starr.  Later in his career he would be the driving force behind The Traveling Wilburys, an all-star band featuring Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne of ELO, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan. For Harrison, it wasn’t about the credit. It was about the collaboration. He simply loved to work with talented people. In fact, the band members in The Traveling Wilburys never received personal credit on the albums, instead listing themselves under anonymous pseudonyms.

Entrepreneurs and leaders in business can learn from George Harrison, and use the knowledge and talent around them to facilitate their own personal and professional growth. One of us is seldom as smart as all of us. As a CEO, establishing a network of smart and talented advisors can help you navigate difficult challenges. There is a good chance that someone in your circle of confidence has already overcome the same problem. In the difficult start-up process for entrepreneurs, there is no need to make mistakes that others have already made and learned from.


About the Author

Steve Jones is the author of Start You Up: Rock Star Secrets To Unleash Your Personal Brand & Set Your Career on Fire. Using backstage and onstage stories from his 30 years in the music business, Steve shows you how to develop a rock star personal brand. Stories from the careers of Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Def Leppard, Kiss, Bob Dylan, James Brown, and Bruce Springsteen help illustrate the 5 P’s of personal branding and how to implement them to make your career rock. He is also the author of Brand Like A Rock Star: Lessons From Rock ‘n’ Roll To Make Your Business Rich and Famous (2011). Steve hosts a popular marketing and branding blog at and connect with him on twitter, @rockstarbrands.