Leadership Lessons From the King

91447131Elvis Presley, known around the world as the “King of Rock and Roll,” built a billboard-topping career that spanned nearly a quarter of a century. During that time he changed the face of music and opened the doors for generations of musicians who followed. Even now, almost 35 years after his death – assuming you choose to believe the King truly has left the building – Elvis is still one of the most universally recognizable pop culture icons in the world.

So, it’s only natural to assume he knew a thing or two about being a leader.

It’s time to dust off the vinyl and start shaking your hips as we dig deep into Elvis’ extensive musical repertoire to see what the King can teach us about leadership.

Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes! – Blue Suede Shoes
While the song serves as a warning to all the other flailing feet on the dance floor to refrain from scuffing the now iconic pair of designer duds, these words also work well as a reminder to give your employees some room to step up to a new challenge or take on a leadership role. Sometimes the best thing a leader can do to help employees with C-suite aspirations is to simply get out of the way and let them learn through experience.

You look like an angel, walk like an angel, talk like an angel, but I got wise – You’re the devil in disguise! – (You’re the) Devil in Disguise
Originally recorded in 1963, Devil in Disguise is a tale of love gone awry when the leading lady, and object of Elvis’ affection, shows her true colors, ending the relationship in heartbreak for the King. In the workplace, these words more aptly describe the necessity of transparency. Your employees want a leader they can trust, and it’s your responsibility to be as upfront, open and honest as possible.

A little less conversation, a little more action, please. – A Little Less Conversation
This seize-the-day anthem, written for Elvis for the 1968 film Live a Little, Love a Little, doesn’t so much ask, but rather tells the listener to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. And in the workplace, that’s exactly what’s expected of a great leader. When projects and deadlines start piling up, nothing builds respect and confidence more than a leader who rolls up their sleeves and dives into the trenches alongside them.

My hands are shaky and my knees are weak. I can’t seem to stand on my own two feet. – All Shook Up
Listed on The Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, this song is said to have been inspired by a “shook up” bottle of Pepsi. However, in the workplace, these iconic words help to remind us of the importance of confidence. Your employees need to feel that they are following a leader who is not only confident about where they are going, but also how they will get there. When management appears nervous and unsure, it becomes more difficult to inspire the people they lead.

The King of Rock and Roll may be gone, but his legacy lives on. Even today, nearly 60 years after he recorded his first single, the music of Elvis Presley still holds up, and there’s no doubt it’ll be remembered well into the future. Inspiration comes from many sources, and who better to pull some helpful words of wisdom from than a man who helped define an entire generation.

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