Our leadership journey presents us with many opportunities for self reflection. The last few weeks have presented me with many moments, and the passing of Canadian rock icon, Gordon Downie (The Tragically Hip) has been one of the most profound. Here are my thoughts on why losing Gord has affected so many of us and strangely, it relates directly to the passion we have about developing leaders. In the last months of his life, I believe he demonstrated behaviours indicative of corporate and world influencers.
Last summer, I was fortunate to stand in the 6th row at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, MB taking in one of the the final shows on the last Tragically Hip Tour. It was an experience like no other. With Gord taking the stage in metallic leather suits and feather adorned hats, I quickly realized it wasn’t his attire that made an impact, it was his actions and his words.
Our work often provides us with the opportunity to connect with people who make a measurable impact within their companies and our community. Even if you aren’t a fan of The Hip, there is no denying their music, dripping with references to Canadian life, and Gord Downie himself, had an impact on many of us. Are these leaders (and rock and rollers) different from us?
I suggest that people who make a positive impact on their companies and community share some of these common traits.
We can’t deny Downie’s proficient and poetic lyrics, but if you ever attended a live show I believe it was his honest and heart felt comments that truly drew people in. He shared his passions. He spoke openly. Gord understood the importance of relationships.
Our ability to communicate with others is of utmost importance in business. Being open and honest; a willingness to engage in conversation (even when time doesn’t seem to permit it) helps foster positive working relationships. Recognizing the needs of others and appreciating different work styles, fosters a community of trust, acceptance and understanding. What is your organization doing to foster communication and relationship building among colleagues?
I remember hearing an interview over the past year that quoted Downie as saying, he told Canadian stories “because they needed to be told.” Despite being a huge hockey fan, I would not have known about Bill Barilko had it not been for The Hip. Their songs are rich with stories of Canada that many of us can relate to.
This past week, we had the pleasure of working with an organization searching for their “company stories.” Who best exemplifies the values and competencies that are most important to them? There were plenty of examples to draw from! It is stories that personalize your company, which in turn, influence customers to choose you over your competitor. Who are the influencers in your companies and what stories do you have to tell?
I doubt that Gord Downie ever sought to be iconic. Last summer, on August 20 2016, 11.7 million people (⅓ of Canada’s population) tuned into CBC to watch the Hip broadcast their last concert from Kingston, ON. The last song they played at that concert was “Ahead by a Century” and as we reflect on the life of Gord Downie and his impact as a leader for so many in this country, I leave you with the first few lyrics from that song and invite you to reflect on what impact and influence, you as a leader, have in your organization and in your community.
“First we’d climb a tree and maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life”
Lyrics from Ahead by a Century
Songwriters: Gordon Downie / Johnny Fay / Joseph Paul Langlois / Robert Baker / Robert Gordon Sinclair
Ahead by a Century lyrics © Peermusic Publishing
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