Posts Tagged ‘vision’

3 practices leaders should adopt from Bono

This article originally appeared on the Fox Business website.

One of the great success stories of our time is the rock band U2.  When the band began in 1976, its musical skills left much to be desired. More than three decades later, U2 has received a remarkable 22 Grammy awards, more than any band in history. In addition, the band surpassed the Rolling Stones’ record for the highest revenue grossing concert tour. How did this transformation happen?

Like all great groups, leadership makes the difference. Bono is U2’s leader, lead singer and lyricist. His leadership approach can be described in one sentence: Bono communicates an inspiring vision and lives it, values people, and gives them a voice. CEOs would be wise to follow Bono’s example.

1. Communicate an inspiring vision and live it

U2’s vision is to improve the world through its music and influence. Bono calls it “the spark” and he feels it sets U2 apart from many other bands. U2’s songs address themes the band members believe are important to promote such as human rights and social justice. Bono has described himself as a traveling salesman of ideas within songs.

He lives the vision, too. Bono and his wife Ali are philanthropists who help the poor, particularly in Africa.

2. Value people

Bono values people. He encourages and affirms his fellow band members. He expresses appreciation for their talents and describes them as being essential to U2’s success.

Ask his fellow band members and they’ll tell you Bono has had their back during times of trial. When drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., lost his mom in a car accident a short time after the band was formed, Bono was there to support him. Having lost his own mother, Bono shared Larry’s pain. Later, when U2 was offered its first recording contract with the condition that it replace Larry with a more conventional drummer, Bono told the record company executive to “shove it.”

When lead guitar player “the Edge” went through divorce, Bono and the guys were there to support him. When bass player Adam Clayton showed up to one concert so stoned he couldn’t perform, Bono and the other members were likely tempted to throw him overboard for letting them down. Instead, they had someone step in to cover for him and they went on to help Adam overcome the drug and alcohol addiction he had developed.

Unlike many bands where the megastar takes most of the economic profits, Bono splits profits equally among the four band members and their long-time manager. This also shows that Bono values his fellow band members and manager. I’m not saying CEOs should split their company’s economic profits equally with others. Just recognize that taking too much of the profits works against motivating the people you lead.

3. Give people a voice

Bono gives his fellow band members a voice in decision-making. The members of U2 argue relentlessly over their music, which reflects their passion for excellence. Bono has stated this approach is frustrating at times and it takes longer to make decisions but that he believes it is necessary to achieve excellence.

Connection, community and unity

The result of Bono’s leadership is the band members feel a strong sense of connection, community and unity. Bono describes U2 as a tight-knit family. He has said, “People with a strong sense of family and community…are always very strong people.”  The commitment to support one another extends beyond the four members of the band. The members of U2 are part of a larger community that includes their families, crew members and collaborators. Many of them have known each other for decades.

The members of U2 feel connected to their leader and they have his back as well. The most vivid example of this came when U2 campaigned during the 1980s for the observance of a Martin Luther King, Jr., Day in America. Bono received a death threat that warned him not to sing the song “Pride (In the Name of Love),” a song about the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., at an upcoming concert. Bono described in an interview that as he sang the song, he closed his eyes. At the end of a verse when he opened his eyes, Bono discovered Adam Clayton literally standing in front of him to shield him from potential harm.

Now don’t get carried away and expect the people you lead will take a bullet for you. That said, just imagine what an organization of loyal, committed and connected employees could accomplish.

By following Bono’s leadership practices, CEOs can unite their organizations and motivate their members. Doing so will increase the trust, cooperation and esprit de corps necessary to produce sustainable superior performance.

See also:

Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity

Smarter, Faster, Better: Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership

Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World

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Dare to be different: Dare to dream

This is an excerpt from Kay Sprinkel Grace’s book-in-progress, Dare to Dream.

Lately, it has been hard for organizations to dream. Instead, we have worried. Through the recession and into the post-recession, we have felt dreaming was a luxury. And yet, our organizations were founded on dreams: improved education, compelling drama, accessible music, alleviated suffering among vulnerable populations or the cure of the chronic and life-threatening diseases.

We begin with a dream but what happens after that first dream has been turned into a thriving organization? What happens after those first founders move on? What happens when we go into maintenance (or recessionary decline) and we begin the perceptible shift from dreaming about what might be possible to believing that a successful year is one in which we “get back to zero” or balance our budgets?

I believe we begin to lose our edge of excellence. We begin looking in the mirror instead of through our windows. We always do what we’ve always done because we are successful.

But what if we dare to be different? What if we dare to dream? What if we could strengthen our core while also pushing the boundaries of our thinking to say, What is coming in our community? What is the next big dream we need to have?

It does not cost anything to dream. You can hold on to a dream while still maintaining your commitment to sound fiscal practices and execution of your strategic plan. This is not an either/or–it is a both/and.

Negative messages

The impact of the recession was both financial and psychological. It continues to influence the philanthropic investment decisions of many donors. To compound that problem, an alarming number of organizations still struggle with messages that border on begging for funding to keep their doors open and their services sound. These messages come not from a sense of the impact the organizations are having and can have, but from a sense of fear that they will not make their budget and will have to make cuts. These messages fan the potential donor’s fears about the economy and the result is a pervasive syndrome called “psychic poverty.”

I believe that even in the worst of times, people harbor dreams. And, I believe that organizations, even those whose budgets are strapped, need to set aside time to dream.


Our sector is about risk. We see a need in the community, and we risk our initial seed money (and engage others to risk theirs) to meet that need. In times of uncertainty we are less willing to take risks. The boundaries of risk are fear and dreams, and when we are fearful about our future we simply cannot dream. And we do not risk. Like many of our donors, we have felt deep psychic poverty as we juggle the uncertainty of the future against our present needs.

So, how can we project an image that says we are aware of the boundaries of risk but we will not succumb to fear, which inhibits both risk and renewal? Do we remember that embedded in every organization is a dream that is powerful and compelling? While we have rightfully become more strategic, let us not forget that dreams are what capture the imagination of both donors and our communities. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not say, “I have a plan,” when he spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. He said, “I have a dream.”


We must inspire dreams. Two recent comments from leading philanthropists offer us little comfort and great challenge. Jean Case, commenting after the 2012 White House Conference on Philanthropy, said that high impact investors are sitting on the sidelines. More than $12 billion are under management for donors in charitable funds operated by large investment firms and community-based foundations. When will more of that money reach the organizations in your community? I believe it will be when we come up with big ideas, big dreams and engage others in big solutions to the growing problems in our society. Carlos Slim Helu, the richest man in the world, commented at the Forbes 400 conference in September, 2012, “We have seen thousands of people working in nonprofits, and the problems and poverty are bigger. They have not solved anything.” I absolutely do not agree with that, but I have to attribute his belief to the fact that we continue to talk about the needs we have, rather than the needs we meet. We fail to focus on impact. We focus on what we want for our organizations instead of what we want for our communities when we convey our vision.

Do you inspire your donors to think big with you, or is “getting back to zero” considered an achievement? Are there times during the year where the board and staff dream together? Where they take a hard look through the windows and ask where the next big opportunity is coming from and whether they are ready?

Dreams are a renewable resource. I think more of us should hang a Native American dream catcher in our windows. It would remind us that philanthropy itself began with a dream and that each of our organizations is the embodiment of someone’s dream to make this world a better place.

Native American Dream Catcher

Room to Read is one of the great success stories of high impact social investment philanthropy. John Wood, the founder, recently offered this comment in a blog in the Chronicle of Philanthropy:

I’ve always believed bold goals attract bold people, and that’s why I said we wanted to reach 10 million children by 2020. We’re doing so well that we’ve moved the deadline forward by five years. To date, we’ve reached 7.8 million children….I’m very much against the adage of small is beautiful. I think small is ineffective.  –John Wood, Founder, Room to Read

I believe there are people out there waiting for us to put forth a dream that will connect with what they have long believed as possible for their communities or for the world.

See also:

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World

Influencer: The Power to Change Anything

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