String Cheese and Rock Star Leadership

I liked the format of Time magazine’s 12/14/2009 interview with Foo Fighters front-man, Dave Grohl – regular people emailing in questions for Grohl to answer, which he did with surprising candor and aplomb. But something he said really got me thinking about an important element of being a Rock Star Leader (RSL).

First, an excerpt from the interview: To the question, “Has becoming a father changed the way you write music?” Grohl replied:

“I used to tour nine months out of the year. Now I don’t like being away from my kids for more than 12 days. It’s changed everything that I do. When you have kids, you see life through different eyes. You feel love more deeply and are maybe a little more compassionate. It’s inevitable that that would make its way into your songwriting.”

Makes sense, yes?! But what brought it home for me was his answer to a seemingly unrelated question: “How do you manage to scream consistently in your songs and still have one of the best singing voices around?” His answer was this:

“I’ve been destroying my voice for, like, 15 years. My vocal cords probably look like string cheese at this point.”

Exactly! You see, he probably wouldn’t have even known even was such a thing as “string cheese” if he wasn’t a father. (And I’m not talking about the band, The String Cheese Incident, either! )

So under the category of “You Don’t Know What You Know until You Know What You Know,” what DO Rock Star Leaders know about leadership that most “lousy” leaders do not? Here are a handful of possibilities:

1. A Rock Star Leader knows the importance of GETTING “IN FRONT OF” MEETINGSIt’s no surprise that meetings are some of the absolute worst places to get things done! That’s why RSLs work to have key conversations, with key players, in advance of ‘formal’ meetings on the topic. Doing so dramatically improves their views being properly heard, understood, and incorporated into the decision-making process. That’s how “influence” happens.

2. A Rock Star Leader knows the importance of KNOWING HOW TO MOP-UP QUICKLY Obviously, delegation is an essential leadership skill. But even more important is knowing how to clean-up quickly, efficiently, and satisfactorily, should something you delegate go wrong. So whenever RSLs delegate, you can be sure that they spend at least a few moments considering how to handle things if they don’t turn out as planned.

3. A Rock Star Leader knows the importance of ASSISTING OTHERS ACHIEVE SUCCESSThere’s a real paradox in modern leadership: Individual achievement is, typically, what brings us the recognition we need to get promoted into a leadership role, but it is our ability to help others be successful that ultimately defines our real success as leaders. RSLs understand that if they help enough people be successful, what goes around will come back around.

4. A Rock Star Leader knows the importance of MICROMANAGING … YOURSELFNo one likes a boss who micromanages. Why would they?! It implies that their boss neither trusts, nor respects, them. That might not be what you, as boss, actually believes, but it sure is what it looks like from down below. RSLs know that with good planning, delegation, and communications skills, there’s really no need to micromanage. Being able to consistently providing direct reports with clear, concise, meaningful, and deadline-driven projects and assignments does require the RSLs to micromanage someone, though … themselves!

5. A Rock Star Leader knows the importance of MODELING HOW TO HANDLE FAILURE Nobody’s perfect. That means that, from time to time, we’re going to do things that make us look a bit … imperfect! So be it. RSLs know that HOW they react to their failures makes a BIG difference – just consider the difference between a boss having good laugh at his/her own expense and an awkward, defensive, hissy-fit! RSLs make a point of modeling the behaviors they want to see from their staff when things go well, and when they do not.

These are just some of the things that Rock Star Leaders know that “lousy” leaders likely do not. Like Dave Grohl and his string cheese reference, he knew what he knew, because he knew what he knew – just as Rock Star Leaders know what they know because they know what they know, too.

Want to know more about how leaders excel at leadership? Visit

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Barry Zweibel is president of GottaGettaCoach!, Inc. (
He can be reached at and followed on Twitter at

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~ by Barry Zweibel on December 19, 2009.

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