Leadership Lessons from Rock-N-Roll

I had an amazing opportunity to attend a private presentation at Cleveland's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last night. Living in Cleveland I tend to forget that we have this great place, what a wonderful reminder! The presentation focused on Women who Rock and they shared amazing stories about some pioneer women and the leadership that they showed.

The first story was about Ethel Winant who became the first female television network Vice President in 1973.....and her shoes! You see, because she was the first female executive and there were no women's rooms in the executive dining room. After a while, she got tired of having to take the longer walk to the other floors to find a bathroom. How did she fix it? Well, when the men saw her high heels outside the bathroom door - she told them 'If my shoes are outside, don't go in'! She really paved the way for women to fill those shoes!

The night was filled with great stories of leadership and courage, here are 3 leadership lessons that stood out for me:

  1. Be Confident, Be Brave, Be a Woman - told through the story of Wanda Jackson who was a pioneer in Rock & roll, although she didn't get any credit for that and most people don't even know her name. (I will admit I had not heard of her story until last night). She wrote songs about women standing up for themselves, didn't conform to their dress code and refused to compromise what she believed in!
  2. Always be True to Yourself - told through the story of Cindy Lauper and started with her solo debut album 'She's so Unusual'. She was and is unusual and made it 'okay' to be a little weird and let your personality shine through - being authentic versus 'faking it'.
  3. Always be present, be authentic, give back....& you will be cool! - told through the story of Bonnie Raitt who said 'You create the happiness and the balance that you have, and your own power. This is one thing that I know to be true'. She had persistence that helped bring her to the front. They shared the story of Bonnie shining the light on Sippy Wallace, an amazing blues singer from the 20's who was living in Detroit and working as a housekeeper. Bonnie performed with her and the proceeds went to Sippy and allowed her to live comfortably through the rest of her life.

Transparency, truth, confidence and being authentic are common words that we hear in leadership today. It was great to see and hear about some of these women who ROCK that paved the way for us today! The lessons came from these women but they apply to all of us - what an inspiration!

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