STRATEGIC NARRATIVE INSIGHTS
A 3-minute Masterclass on Leadership Alignment
It is 1980 and the band Queen is about to release one of the greatest hits of all time, the song Another One Bites the Dust.
Written by bass guitarist John Deacon, the song was inspired by "Good Times" by the disco group Chic.
At the time, Disco is the new game in the music industry, but for Queen, playing disco is a major shift in artistic direction from Rock and Roll.
There is a scene in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody that tells the story of how this song happened.
During this scene, we see some major tensions within the band about Freddie Mercury’s decision to veer into disco. It seems like the band is about to break up until the music is brought back to the conversation by John Deacon.
What’s most striking is how this moment perfectly illustrates what to do when your team is misaligned or just simply in total disagreement about a new strategic direction. In this case, the new strategy is disco music of course.
Watch this masterclass in leadership alignment unfold in only three minutes. The parallel I am making below should make a lot of sense after that.
Here is the connection I make between music and team alignment. Check out some of my favorite lines and takeaways:
0:53 - “I want the energy in the clubs, the bodies, I want to make people move” => You should make your point of view clear and meaningful for your market.
1:03 - “Drum loops, synthesizers if you say so. It’s not us!” => It looks like once again, leading the conversation with product features is not an effective persuasion strategy.
1:12 - “Well, you can play your own bloody drums, then.” => Your strategy is not going to happen if the rest of the leadership team is not sold.
1:20 John Deacon starts playing the bass line - “It’s quite a cool riff actually” => This is the pivotal moment right there. You can only judge the strategy when you see and hear the message being executed. Test it as soon as possible, even if you only have part of it. By the way, this is one of the fundamental principles of Agile put in practice right here.
1:35 - “That’s really good. Yes, it will be, if you all can just shut up and play”. => The strategy can be powerful if everyone stops debating before trying. To get on the same page, make your leaders “play the same song”, I mean use the same language.
2:00 - “Steve walks warily down the street, With the brim pulled way down low.” => The song wouldn’t be so darn good if it wasn’t for the lyrics and the meaning they carry in the context of 1980. What makes the new strategy so compelling is… the story.
2:15, "Miami" slams his briefcase on the table - “OK, I’ll do it”. => When employees see leaders align around a powerful point of view, they’re mobilized!
2:30, Freddie Mercury is in a club => Of course, the strategic story is only viable if it’s built with your customer in mind. For that, Freddy Mercury gathered his own insights from his field trips to the clubs.
2:35 - “Now just improvise, just give whatever you want. I can do that!” => Once the strategic story is clear in everyone’s mind, you don’t need to waste precious time and energy into giving detailed instructions and micro-managing. Once they have the big picture in mind, People know what to do.
Oh, and I forgot this important one:
0:41 - “I don’t care if you shitfaced, as long as you can sing” => Showing up late and high to a strategy work session, or just any meeting, is not such a good idea. Or I guess it’s ok as long as you can participate.
You can debate a new strategy, concept or idea for as long as you want.
If you don’t start by telling what the story sounds like, first, you’re going to get lost in details, and stuck for a while.
Please share any other lesson you’re drawing from this scene. I would love if you could send me your thoughts on this.
I hope you enjoyed it!