Leadership Lessons from Lady Gaga

by Dr Dina Williams

Lady Gaga Poker Face

She causes controversy, her music is might not be your cup of tea but it is certain that you will be familiar with the girl from the Lower East Side of New York who in a few short years transformed herself from Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta into one of the world’s best-known musical performers

Who we are talking about? Lady Gaga, of course

She blasted to the stratosphere of music industry with her first album The Fame, the best-selling debut album of 2009. Her single, Poker Face, is the most downloaded tune in the history of U.K. digital music.

Music icon plus

She is not only a music icon but an iconic business model from which corporate leaders can learn a few lessons. According to a recent article in The Economist, Lady Gaga has what Anderson, Reckhenrich and Kupp call “leadership projection“. This is a concept in which communication, behaviour and aspiration are integrated to provide a leader with wide recognition across an industry or sphere of public life.

Leadership projection is very much about attracting followers. The authors believe that her ability to build emotional commitment in those she leads is a capacity of increasing value in today’s business world. Financial Times summarising the case study puts her business success down to knowing how to use social media:

“She is the first living person to achieve 10 million fans on Facebook, which has grown by a further 2 million in a fortnight; she has nearly 5 million followers on Twitter; she is the first currently producing music artist to reach one billion YouTube views…Currently ‘Lady Gaga’ is searched 151,000,000 times a month.”

She has an instinctive understanding of how to handle social media and digital platforms. Forbes states:

“She is directing every frame of her music and her life, imagining how clips will appear on YouTube and what people will tweet after she appears on the VMAs.”

She likes her fans and they like her back

An industry insider is quoted as saying: “Maybe Gaga points a way to the future – to make your fans your trusted friends. After all, who steals from friends?” She constantly engages with her fans creating a feeling of ‘friendship’ which is reinforced by pet-naming her fans Monsters thereby familiarising them and creating a definite loyalty to her brand.

In an interview with Stephen Fry she says:“Well actually, I sent them hot chocolate yesterday, and macaroons, and then today I had the press all day and I felt a bit bad because I wouldn’t have much of a chance to go down and say hello. But I did manage to go down and brought them some fresh cookies and flowers”. She even named her second album “Fame Monsters”

She builds on others’ fame

Lady Gaga does not do feuds, and happily shares her platform with potential “rivals”. She has teamed up with Madonna, Beyoncé, Elton John. According to Forbes she “leverages buzz” by sharing the limelight with other, mightier entertainment brands than her own. She admits the influence in her work of David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Michael Jackson, Prince and others.

She is the brand

Lady Gaga does not endorse brands. Instead she creates new products in companies that have asked her to come on board. The objects with which she is identified are bounded by her own values. The latest news is that she is now a creative director at Polaroid, introducing to the market a range of innovative products of Polaroid’s Grey Label line, their flagship range including sunglasses which take pictures and technology that allows you to print photos directly from your mobile.

3 Responses to Leadership Lessons from Lady Gaga

  1. samer al salhi says:

    Leadership in “entertaining business” is so different, we are talking about people who inspire others by their style (fashion, voice, performance , appearance) and for no doubt Lady Gaga is superior in this .

    The question is, could we compare the leadership in this business with other types of leadership? A manager could be very loving to the team and be very flexible in dealing with them, which is what makes people love singers and maybe could lead the team to success future?

    I liked what you said about getting lessons from Lady Gaga. Leaders in business should go beyond their environment and get lessons from leaders in other environments. For me the healthiest way is to get these lessons from a field that is totally different than ours (as you said a business leader getting lessons from iconic singers – seems strange but really effective at least getting ideas business leaders will never think about !)

  2. Very nice point Samer. A good reason for LWD posting blogs from sport, politics, military fields as well as from business.

  3. samer al salhi says:

    totally agree with you and really enjoying them and get a lot of fascinating ideas and important lessons

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