Leadership Lessons from Woodstock

How can you not escape the Woodstock hype on this, the 40th anniversary weekend of THE event of the sixties? Peace, love and music are everywhere in the news.

No matter what your feelings for this sixties meta-marvel, you have to admit, it DID shape a generation. So what you say! Fair enough.

But before you dismiss the media obsession with Woodstock, get creative...amid the hype and the hyperbole, there actually might be s
ome leadership lessons for managers, directors, vice presidents and yes, even CEOs. Groovy!

What can we take away from the the folks who peaced-out at Yasgur's farm in 1969 and apply to how we manage and lead?

Lessons in Collaboration

The big take-away from Woodstock is a lesson in collaboration.

Think of a half-million strong crowd and the potential for harm and mayhem. But cooler heads prevailed because people were respectful and listened, and took stock of the needs of others.

How can you apply that collective
model of sharing to how you lead your teams?

1. Communicate Freely. OK, you're not going to share a blanket in your
team's meeting (or other substances that we only read about...), but the open channel of communications that was Woodstock's hallmark is a very effective model. There was heated debate over Vietnam war philosophies, but everyone had a voice. As you think about how you interact with your team, are you a "command and control" project manager or a collaborative leader who actively seeks input and drives to consensus? The latter is the model that many progressive companies and leaders are making a defacto standard.

2. Control Expectations. Half a million free-loving and substance-loving radicals
all together in one place had the potential for disaster. How to control the crowds? Control their expectations. Every banner, every poster spoke to two things: peace and music.

As you motivate and lead your teams, how can you control their expectations for outcomes? Clearly define your goals at every meeting so your troops know exactly what is expected of them. Verbalize it often and put it in writing if you must, but let people know exactly what they should do or not do.

3. Turn Their Passion On. Whether it was Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin or The Who, music is what everyone came for, and that common bond untied and inspired the crowds.

What can you offer your teams and your organization that is inspirational? Whether you're an IT project manager trying to motivate 20 engineers to rally around a virtualization initiative or a CEO trying to get your sales force back on track, find a common cause that all team members can relate to, and then inspire and motivate them.

40-years ago, in a place as far removed from corporate America as you possibly could get, Joni Mitchell sang about how "we are stardust...we are golden...." Wouldn't it be great if you could inspire your teams to feel that THEY were golden? Take out that old Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young CD and get inspired again!