What’s Billy Bragg got to do with business leadership?

Billy Bragg Photo: Radio Times

Billy Bragg
Photo: Radio Times

I’m not a festival goer, but earlier this month I found myself at Camp Bestival in Dorset. This is a family friendly festival for those with younger children, and they had commissioned a cut-down version of a pantomime I’d written for a local village production last Christmas.

One of the acts was Billy Bragg; left-wing radical famous for being anti-establishment and a supporter of oppressed minorities. Feeling nostalgic, I mentioned to one of my compatriots, Jon, that I was thinking of taking a look. Jon runs a high-tech electronics research laboratory, but was there as a musician for the pantomime. To my surprise, Jon’s response was “I’ll definitely be there – he’s been a long time musical hero of mine”.

The surprise was due to assumptions that Jon was much more conservative in nature and would find Billy Bragg a bit uncomfortable. My assumptions were based on the way he talked about his job, his strong family values and an absence of previous ‘political’ conversations. On learning that Billy Bragg was one of Jon’s musical heroes, my opinion changed.

The importance of this is that, as a leader, the people we openly admire (or despise) say a lot about us and influences the impact we have on others.  Thus, admiring mainstream heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Jack Welch or Winston Churchill could never be criticised, but leaves us middle-of-the-road. Admiring the more radical makes us more ‘edgy’, and potentially more interesting. For leaders, this raises the question:

Who do I admire that reflects my thoughts and ambitions and gives me an edge?

My own heroes include Norman Tebbit , Dennis Skinner and David Bowie. What does that say about me?

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