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5 Team Leadership Lessons from The Beatles

Posted on October 9, 2020 at 8:35 AM

October 9th, 2020 would have been John Lennon's 80th birthday. Lennon was one of the most successful music artists in human history. And he was taken away way too soon. He was also a founder of a band - The Beatles - that created billions of dollars of commercial success. The Beatles success arose from their talent as creative artists and performers. They were also successful because they were able to stay together as a highly-productive team for 10 years. While many fans wished they stayed together longer, The Beatles did produce an astounding 13 albums during that time. Here are 7 team leadership lessons from The Beatles.


1 - Found the Right Team - John Lennon was in a band and invited Paul McCartney. McCartney invited his friend George Harrison to join. Those three would peel off and become the Beatles in 1960. There were five other members of the Beatles in the first two years of the band. Some of those members left on their own, but the core three did not settle until they found what they were looking for. They dismissed drummer, Pete Best, so they could plug in Ringo Starr in 1962. The "Fab Four" was now complete and would stay together until the end of the bad in 1970.


LEADERSHIP LESSON -> Dismissing the weakest performers on a team is painful, but it can be essential for teams to reach their full potential.


2- Share Credit - John and Paul were the main songwriters at the beginning. They would collaborate on songs, with each taking the lead on some and playing a secondary role on others. Instead of quibbling over who would be listed as lead versus support on each song, they decided to just list themselves as co-writers on everything they did together. They even wanted to give everyone in the band a chance to be a singer, so they wrote songs that Ringo could since with his limited vocal range - e.g., Yellow Submarine.


LEADERSHIP LESSON -> The Beatles viewed themselves as a unit of equals who brought different, important skills to the team. That helped them stay together through 10 years of huge change, from anonymity in their late teens / early 20s to worldwide celebrity and marriage and fatherhood by 1970.


3 - Cross-Training - The Beatles learned new skills so they could complement and fill in for each other. In the early days when they lost their bassist, Paul dropped the guitar and learned bass to take over that role. George emerged as a songwriter to complement John and Paul. Harrison helped Ringo write a few songs too.


LEADERSHIP LESSON -> Learning the skills of other team members is valuable. It provides an ability for the team to keep working through absences. It also helps team members appreciate what other team members do.


4 - Looked for Best Practices - Even when they were on top of the world, The Beatles kept looking for inspiration from other bands and forms of music. The revolutionary album Pet Sounds by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, for example, was said to have had a big impact on The Beatles. They also appreciated contemporaries like Bob Dylan, The Who, The Rolling Stones and others. They even found inspiration from classical music, adding orchestras to some of their later music.


LEADERSHIP LESSON -> Smart teams keep an eye on the competition to see what they need to do to stay on top.


5 - Embraced Change - Success can breed complacency. The Beatles did not let their success make them complacent. When their success got big, they decided to start making films too as a new way to cash in. When their fame got too big to do small arenas, they started playing outdoor stadiums. When they got too big for that, they became a studio-only band. When the music world evolved from catchy, teen-friendly tunes in the early 1960s to more socially-conscious music shaped by anti-war feelings in the late 1960s, The Beatles evolved there as well.


LEADERSHIP LESSON -> Smart teams learn to sense and adapt to changes in their environment so they do not get left behind.


The Beatles were more than just a band - they were a team that stayed together for a decade through remarkable change and success. They weren't just talented artists - they were great team members. Teams today in any field can learn from their experience as a a high-functioning team.

Categories: People Leadership, Communication Skills, Career Planning