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The leadership lesson you can learn from Spotify

Spotify has a nifty little feature called ‘behind the lyrics.’

When you’re playing a song, up comes the story behind the lyrics. Spotify gives you information like: What led the artist to write the song, how the song took shape, the challenges the artist faced in writing and producing the song and who they collaborated with.

In short, it gives us the WHY of the song.

Songs that I’ve been listening to for years are far more powerful now that I know what led the songwriter to write them in the first place.

When we know ‘the why’ of something, we have a greater connection to it. Understanding ‘the why’ gives us that crucial context that leads to an emotional response, and in doing so, we connect more fully with it.

That’s a pretty handy tip to remember as a leader.

  • What are the key messages YOU are currently trying to communicate?
  • What’s the ‘why’ behind your what?
  • Are you giving others your own ‘behind the lyrics’ story to the song you’re singing?

Here are three ways you can apply Spotify’s behind the lyrics to your business:

  1. Tell a story. Double points if it’s a personal story. Humans are hardwired for sharing stories. Your message will pack more punch if it’s wrapped in a hero’s journey.
  2. Give context before you start telling people what to do. Need to cut costs? Tell people what’s happening and has happened to lead up to any cost cutting decisions. You can share examples of other businesses, or departments that have faced similar situations, and have overcome them and become stronger as a result. Be clear of the WIFM (what’s in it for me) when you communicate with people. Often, it’s necessary to tell people what the consequences of inaction will be. People are better equipped to understand issues if they understand the consequences.
  3. Use a metaphor. “It’s as if…” is a powerful way to give meaning to your message. Metaphors help people connect the dots. Is it like a river? Is it like a superhero’s battle with evil? Is it setting off on a journey to a distant shore? A human body? Nature is a veritable treasure trove of metaphors. Ask yourself, “What is this like that’s different, yet the same?”

The more I learn about leadership, the more I realise that leadership lessons can spring from anywhere – even a digital music service like Spotify.

So, this week, if you use Spotify, I challenge you to check out ‘behind the lyrics’ to better connect with your favourite songs and find a way to apply ‘behind the lyrics’ in your own leadership practice. If you do this, you’ll be more likely to get everyone singing from the same song sheet.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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