Garth Brooks: A concert and master class in leadership
On July 20, 2019, we went to Garth Brooks on the blue turf at Albertson’s Stadium on the Boise State campus. While I fully intended to hear an amazing concert and have a blast, one thing I didn’t think I’d get was a lesson on leadership and culture.
About halfway through the amazing concert, Garth Brooks started introducing the members of his team. He came to one gentleman and stated that they called him ‘The Rookie,’ I anticipated his years in my head, 2? 4? 5 years maybe? Garth continued to describe his value to the team and then said ‘Yes, The Rookie, the shortest-term member on our team, has been with us for 25 years!’ 25 YEARS! My mind was blown. While I’m not an entertainment industry insider by any means, it seems that longevity of teams in anything celebrity is not a norm these days.
Watching the concert, I could tell that Garth has worked hard, and intentionally, to build a culture that the team members want to be a part of and contribute to. I can’t imagine the focus that must take in a job that requires you to be on the road 250 days of the year. Sure, now they’re doing stadium tours once or twice a month but back when…25 years ago…they were still hustling from town to town to build up the Garth brand and name.
Here’s a few things I learned from Garth Brooks about intentionally building a culture that people want to be a part of:
1. Stop, pause and soak it in. I would estimate that 10 times during the concert, Garth put his arms straight out at his sides, tipped his head all the way back, as though to look at the stars, and silently soaked in the atmosphere and the 40,000 people there to watch him and his team perform. In business and life, we get so busy checking off the next box and getting to the next project, it seems we forget to stop and look around to appreciate where we are and where we’ve come from. What’s all this for if we don’t look around once in a while and pat ourselves on the back to say ‘nice job, your hard work is paying off and it’s contributing to the great life you lead’ to ourselves?
2. Celebrate your people and their contributions. It was SO apparent the love that Garth has for everyone on his team. He introduced us to every person on stage and told short stories about them and their time together. Will anyone probably remember the name of his fiddle player or drummer a day after the concert? No. Doesn’t matter, Garth knows he couldn’t deliver what he does night in, and night out without them. Recognition takes a very short amount of time and pays tenfold dividends.
3. Foster the dreams of your team. This one is cool! Garth Brooks has opening acts that come on stage and play before him. Most artists do. BUT! I have never once attended another concert where the CREW…that sets up the stage…is THE BAND! Yes, it’s called The Crew Band. Garth Brooks has The Crew Band that is made up of his road crew. They played 3 or 4 songs for the crowd. Are they going to win a Grammy soon? No. Did Garth foster their dreams? Getting to play music in front of 40,000 people? Absolutely! Garth knows they aren’t the best in the business but that doesn’t matter. He knows he’s fostering their dreams and passions and adding fun into their otherwise ordinary day jobs.
4. Be humble. If there were a celebrity that could act superstar status, it would be Garth. Yet he doesn’t. You can tell he has a humble heart that appreciates what he gets to do and that without his fans, he wouldn’t be where he is. Garth took time at Boise State to speak with athletes about the importance of culture within an organization or team. During the Friday night concert, the power went down for an extended period of time. Garth was so apologetic and appreciative of how patient the fans in Boise were. As a leader, what goes around, comes around…eventually, so having a humble spirit to lead your team is a valuable asset!
5. Have passion and show it to others. Garth is no spring chicken…but you’d hardly be able to tell. He ignites so much passion into his show, you’d never know his age by seeing him on stage. Passion and ‘fire in your belly’ are things that I think some leaders are too scared to show to their teams. They think it might show weakness or an area of vulnerability but we need MORE of that in leadership. When teams can see how much their boss cares about them and their teams’ goals, they can’t help but jump on board. It starts at the top and Garth clearly understands this.
6. Have FUN! Garth had a BLAST during his concert, and he passed it onto his crew, band and all of the concert goers. Intentionally having fun in leadership is something that sometimes doesn’t occur because it doesn’t seem as ‘professional’ or is seen as a waste of time. If we’re going to spend at least half of our life at a company or job, why not stop to take time for fun? Garth makes the concert fun for his team because I’m sure he knows there are 80% other portions of the job that are boring and monotonous. He has pouring water over cymbals on stage, was playing guitar back to back with his old college roommate (39+ years touring together) and playing a custom Boise State guitar built by a local guitar maker!
When I bought tickets to Garth Brooks, I knew I was paying to go to a concert. What I didn’t know was that I was also paying to watch a master in the art of leadership and would learn lessons that would resonate far beyond that evening of hearing ‘The Thunder Rolls’ live. Thank you, Garth! Please come back to Boise soon!