Another Kind of Leadership

When I teach a course in leadership, I often say, “Never in our history have we talked more about leadership. And never have we seen less of it in action.” Perhaps I just haven’t been looking hard enough.


Let me explain. Last weekend I went to the Rod Stewart/Santana concert. I’ve been a long-time fan of Stewart, and have always wanted to see him perform live. When I saw the ad for Stewart and Santana, I was elated. The fact Santana was appearing with Stewart was pretty irrelevant in my mind.

Santana opened the concert, and while I enjoyed his driving rhythmic music, what held me mesmerized was Carlos Santana’s leadership in action. Clearly the main attraction, Carlos nevertheless managed to effortlessly, gracefully share the spotlight with everyone on stage.

His leadership was a dance of movement, using hand signals, moving across the stage or giving a head nod. He let others take the lead on sections of songs—or even the entire song, such as the great rendition of “Roxanne” performed by backup vocalist/guitarist Tommy Anthony. This was not the obligatory percussion or guitar solo that many bands often do. This was truly allowing others to shine.

There was never any question about who was in charge, of course. Santana was never hesitant about taking the lead. After all, people came to hear the great Santana play guitar, and he gave them plenty of that.

And so much more.