What Taylor Swift Can Teach You About Leadership

Danielle Beurteaux

Taylor Swift, pop music force, wrote a post on her Tumblr last week directed at Apple and its decision to not pay artists during the first three months of the company’s new streaming service, Apple Music.

A short while later came Apple’s response, from Taylor_Swift_3,_2012SVP Eddy Cue, via Twitter, and a policy change.

Swift has spoken out before about what she sees as the inequities in music streaming business model. Last November, she had all her music removed from steaming service Spotify over compensation issues. Whether or not Swift’s post was the deciding factor that got Apple to change its mind, she has emerged as a leader.

Leaders must be accessible

Swift has a massive social media following—over 35 million on Instagram alone—which creates a level of immediacy and connection that was but a dream for pop stars of previous generations (or a nightmare, depending on your point of view). How can leaders create similar accessibility? By using social media in combination with more traditional communication methods, says Mike Ettling, SAP’s HR line of business president.

General Patton has left the building: New leadership styles

A piece written for Knowledge@Wharton outlines the four dominant leadership styles that have emerged, thanks in part to changes spurred by technology. Employees don’t want commanders; they want collaborators — hence, Communicator; Collaborator; Commander; and Co-creator.

Visionary leadership without attitude

Think of your employees, writes Tony Schwartz in The New York Times. When employees feel they are respected and appreciated, they’ll do a better job. Schwartz, reflecting on books about Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos — all three known for their abrasive leadership styles — writes: “How much more these men could have enhanced thousands of people’s lives – and perhaps made them even more successful — if they had invested as much in taking care of them as they did in conceiving great products.”

Leaders can come from anywhere

Mega shoe e-tailer Zappos announced an entire overhaul of the company’s leadership organization last year—no titles, no managers. Holacracy replaced the traditional structure—it’s more like a group of overlapping rings of responsibility that can be changed as needed. One possibility is that fluidity will give employees the power to speak up and take on leadership roles—Holacracy includes “lead link roles” and other ways that responsibilities and decisions are made, with roles changing as circles change.

Whether you’re a fan or not of holacracy, Zappos is doing something right: the company announced a projected 78 percent jump in 2015 profits, $97 million compared with 2014’s 54.5 million.

Want more management strategies that get results? See How Empowering Employees Creates a More Engaged Workforce.


Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.

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Leadership