Leadership Lessons from Jay-Z


I got 99 problems, finding a job I love is one.

You’re probably thinking “how could I learn anything about leadership from J-Hova?” Well after watching his Life and Times video documenting the opening of the new Barclays Center there are several parallels to his approach on entertainment and modern leadership styles. In our opinion, you should look for these three (3) qualities when looking for your first job.

1. Engaging - Throughout the entire documentary, Jay-Z is engaging with his band, the workers of the Barclays Center, his fans, and even Ellen, the old lady, on the subway - all while being down to earth and personable. In one particular scene around minute 3, he is walking around (not the “manage by walking around” style) but he is watching, listening and asking questions and sharing his vision. Whoever is leading you and your organization better be engaging like this and have a vision.

2. Vision -  Half way through the video around minute 9, Jay-Z is evaluating the set design and lighting. However, he has a very specific, detailed vision of what footage should be shown, when it should cut to the next and when the lights should drop. Because he is opening up with 8 shows at the Barclays Center he wants to make sure everything is just right. Oh, and by the way, look where he is sitting. He isn’t on stage, in the front row or in some luxury box. He is where his fans are going to be and wants to make sure they will experience the best show.  Because Jay-Z is sitting in the seats sharing his vision and giving direction, he obviously cares about each performance.

Here’s our favorite thing we noticed about his leadership style.

3. Challenges the status quo - He challenges the status quo by 1) coming up with a completely different stage design and having a place for each of his band members. 2) Omar, one of his band members, says around 4 ½ minutes in, that every time each experience is better and better and says “Jay never let’s us get comfortable, he wants to know what can we do next.” His band completely respects him as he continues to push them and demand the next best performance. He has built a cohesive team that is on the same page and believes what he believes.

So as you interview and look for jobs you will be happy in, think of some of Jay-Z’s leadership characteristics and ask yourself or the interviewee:

  1. How does this organization and it’s leadership engage with employees, outside clients and the public?
  2. What vision do you have for the upcoming year, next project or for the team you could be working in. If they don’t have a clear vision you may want to continue looking.
  3. If you are on-site for an interview look around you - does the office look innovative, are they working on projects that are new and different and do they want YOU to challenge the status quo?

Kevin O’Connell, Founder - The Niche Movement

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