Leadership and Profitability: Lessons from Royalty and the Hallelujah Chorus

There's always a lot of discussion about "leadership."  In fact, it's one of the most powerful SEO terms to drive traffic toward you or your site.

But the only way leaders can be leaders is if they have followers...you know, those folks who actually think that you have something worth saying that makes them want to do what you're asking?  Yeah, them.  Like your employees.

Over the years, I've given a lot of thought to followers and followership - probably a word I or someone else made up.  After all, it's not actually about the leader, per se.  It's about his or her people and their willingness to put someone else's direction and thoughts first.

That, from the leader's perspective, is a great and grave responsibility - which too many wannabe leaders don't have a clue about.  More importantly, actual and wannabe leaders don't realize that that's the impact they're having on their people.

But I digress.  Sort of.

Let's get back to leadership, royalty and profitability.

This morning there was a discussion on BBC Radio 4's "Today" program about the growth in Christmas carol concerts - evidently, a very successful and profitable alternative to going to church.  In an aside, there was a comment about one of the all-time favorites, the Hallelujah Chorus, and the fact that the audience stands when it is sung.

The aside had to do with exactly why people stand up.  Well, it turns out that King George II stood at that point in Handel's "Messiah" London debut in his presence at the Royal Albert Hall.  The problem is, no one knows exactly why he stood.

  • Some say it was because he was so moved by the Chorus that it brought him to his feet.
  • Others say he stood abruptly because it awakened him from a nap.
  • My brother, a professional musician, says he heard it was because good old George had to go to the bathroom.

In any case, the thing is - he stood.  As a result, because of royal convention, so did the audience.  But, most importantly, as a result of that, here we are 268 years later doing exactly the same thing: When the Hallelujah Chorus is sung, we stand.

Not only do we still not know why - there isn't a king or other royal anywhere in our vicinity.  We just do it - because that's what we think we're supposed to do.

That's the management/employee downside in a nutshell.  Here's what it looks like:

  • Too many business owners, executives and managers either don't give adequate or any explanation for why they want their employees to do whatever it is they want them to do.  They don't engage - they dictate by taking for granted an implicit understanding which doesn't actually exist.
  • Too many business owners, executives and managers don't realize that the employees are interpreting their 'leader's' actions and imitating them with no understanding of why.  The 'leaders' don't recognize that every one of their actions is on view and - without adequate explanation - all the employees can do is apply their own interpretation and act in accordance with what they believe to be wanted.
Think King George II, the Hallelujah Chorus and the millions of people who have stood and still stand centuries later and you'll see this in action.

What's at risk for you and your enterprise?  Here are just a few examples:
  • Too much time, energy, money and other resources are wasted because employees waste their time working with limited understanding of the real goals of the enterprise and how their actions contribute.  Or not.
  • The organization goes down the drain because you and other 'leaders' never ask your employees to engage and bring their own intellect - and questions - in order to build a better business.
  • Too many innovation opportunities - product, service and business - are lost or, worse, given to your competition because you and the other 'leaders' never asked or explained adequately the 'why' behind the 'what.'
Ultimately, it doesn't matter why our friend, King George II, stood.  What matters is that, like him, you're doing things at this very moment that your people are seeing, interpreting and acting upon - because they think that's what you want.  Even if it isn't.  By a long shot.

Leadership is more than an SEO statistic. Real leaders know the impact they want to have and, to ensure those results, build followers.  What do you need to do?  It's easy:
  • Recognize that you're being watched and interpreted.  Look at how your organization is operating and determine where those interpreted actions - good and bad - are coming from.
  • Monitor your behavior to ensure consistency.  Choose the behaviors that build trust in you and your leadership.  Build organizational systems that support those behaviors at every level.
  • Engage your employees.  Allow them to see your respect - real respect - for what they bring to the enterprise by accessing and utilizing their knowledge, skill, insight and perspective to help build success.
Do those things and, while your employees may not stand when you enter the room, they'll definitely be singing the Hallelujah Chorus that they have you to follow.