OK- you knew it was coming. A David Bowie blogpost. Throw a rock at my head. Or, “oh baby, just you shut your mouth”. I prefer the later.
I really like David Bowie. Always have. As a matter of fact, if you check out my bio over at Fistful Of Talent, you’ll see I reference David Bowie’s “Heroes” as my theme song (I think I posted that in 2009). What’s not to like? Just Google David Bowie right now and you’ll find a million reasons to really like him.
So what HR/Leadership wisdom does Bowie’s life provide us. Lots.
- He wasn’t perfect. And he never acted like he was. Actually, parts of his life were very, very messy. Good leaders don’t hide from their mess. Good leaders don’t pretend they aren’t mistake-making goofs just like everyone else. Then they pay it forward by sharing that messiness with others, when appropriate, in the right medium. Their authenticity is attractive and, dare I say, even classes up the messy.
- He was humble. Quote, “Fame itself… doesn’t really afford you anything more than a good seat in a restaurant.” The sense of humbleness leads to the next bullet point.
- He was a notorious collaborator. I mean, every rockstar is damaged, self-conscious and has something to prove. Some turn that energy into super-competitiveness, others into self-indulgence, still others into asshole-ness. Then there are a few that turn that self-consciousness inside out. They find others who just might be as damaged and self-conscious (which is everyone) and support them. Make a tribe. Many artists recollect that Bowie was the least jealous rockstar they ever met. And his work with Lennon, Mercury, Pop, and Reed, to name a few, show what great collaboration can result in. And let’s not even get into all Bowie’s acting collaborations. Many don’t know, Bowie considered himself more an actor than musician.
- He was NEVER stagnate. I couldn’t title this “he was innovative” or “inventive” or “trend-setting”. That’s just too easy. Fact is, he didn’t stop or settle. HR must learn from this. I mean, let’s pretend, for just a minute that David Bowie did nothing but Ziggy Stardust. Can you even imagine? Imagine Bowie said, “this formula works!”, and just stayed there. He’d be considered ineffective and out of touch. Maybe even boring. Completely irrelevant. Also, he would have been forgotten long ago. HR: get out of Ziggy and move onto Thin White Duke for God sake. Good news is you are close.
- He worked until the end. Just listen to his last album, Blackstar. The album he recorded when he was terminally ill. The album released days before he died. It’s brilliant. Bowie never stopped trying, learning, creating.
- He shared his talents. Good leaders should share their strengths and talents. Great leaders should create environments where others can share their’s as well.
And by sharing those talents openly Bowie connected with the freaks and geeks, the forgotten and the self-conscious. His authenticity made it OK for others to be authentic. Thank you Mr. Bowie – here is to your next adventure and oddity.