We delivered one of our “hybrid keynotes and musical experiences” at the climax of an MBA-level Leadership Executive Education residential at Henley Business School in UK recently. Having done an MBA, taught MBA students and delivered MBA Alumni events over 18 years, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of MBA Leadership alumni. A certain amount of controversy exists in the business world regarding the value of such things:

  • Supporters say that an MBA gives you a proper grounding in business knowledge and skills across a broad spectrum of topics, giving you the basis to work at the top of your company where these qualities are essential.
  • Critics point to those people who drown in theory and who cannot apply their ideas to the real world due to becoming too analytical and having no attitude, rather like a musician who relies on technique too much that they forget to engage with the band.

Both viewpoints are correct.

To be an excellent leader requires a blend of relevant knowledge and skills with insights in the personal qualities of leadership necessary to succeed, or what I call “attitude.” This is mostly developed through experience rather than formal study. Good leaders know what to do to get the best out of their people and they also have insight into why they choose a particular approach for a particular situation which comes from underpinning knowledge.

To develop the attitude component of leadership we offered this group of leaders the opportunity to jam with a live band and a Class-A rock star …

Our mystery Class A rock star was Patti Russo, Meatloaf’s long term female singing partner. Patti is a living, breathing example of someone who has lived the “attitude” part of the MBA to its full extent. Patti performs with rock royalty including Cher, Queen and in the theatre with the LA version of “We Will Rock You”. To succeed at this level requires abilities such as:

  • Handling fragile egos in ways that value the task and the relationship over the long term
  • Delivering peak performance every time, even when life kicks sand in your face
  • Making relationships work with people who are different than yourself – it’s easy to rub along with “clones”
  • Emotional resilience – the bounce back or “Chumbawumba” factor
  • The ability to handle life in the fast lane – demands, constraints, choices

In the formal session with Patti we explored concepts such as emotional intelligence, improvisational skills, the 10,000 hours effect, flow, complexity and more using parallel lessons and demonstrations from the world of music, to make the ideas more digestible, memorable and relevant.

After the masterclass we launched into a suite of Meatloaf, Queen and Cher songs plus much more with the assistance of audience members.  Even the Financial Times were moved to comment:

Wise words on sustainable business and MBA thinking from Meatloaf …

Meatloaf on MBAs and rock stars

I’ve been working with Patti to develop the next stage of her career now that Meatloaf is in the autumn of his. Amongst the directions she is pursing is that of a keynote speaker and performer, working together with us. For now, I’ll leave you with one of her performances with Queen:

About Peter Cook

Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. He offers keynotes, masterclasses coaching and mentoring on leadership, creativity, and innovation. Author and contributor to 11 books, acclaimed by Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham, Harvey Goldsmith and Tom Peters. Peter won a prize for his work from Sir Richard Branson and writes for Virgin.com. 18 years in science, 18 years teaching MBA’s, 18 + years running a business and all his life playing music.

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