Friday, 08 December 2023 04:25

3 things Taylor Swift just said as 'Person of the Year' that every leader should learn

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On Wednesday, Time Magazine named Taylor Swift its Person of the Year, because, well, of course, she was. It's hard to think of anyone having a better year--or anyone who played a bigger role in influencing culture than Swift did this year. 

There's the record-setting tour, the re-releasing of her most popular album ever--the new version of which set its own records--the concert movie, and the new boyfriend. That last one, to be clear, is less about her romantic life and more about Swift's complete dominance in terms of cultural influence. Her mere presence at NFL games, where she watches her boyfriend Travis Kelce play tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, has boosted ratings to record-setting levels. Never mind that Swift's tour was credited with revitalizing the hotel industry and increasing overall economic conditions. 

And, so, she is the obvious choice for "Person of the Year."

In a profile by Sam Lansky, Swift shares a handful of stories about all the things you might expect: her career, the tour, and--for seemingly the first time--the new boyfriend. That's the part that a lot of people are focusing on, but I'd suggest that the article should be required reading for every entrepreneur and leader for a different reason. Here are three things every leader should learn from Swift's remarkable year--in her own words:

Show Up Prepared

Swift's concert performances lasted almost three hours. It should be obvious that three hours is a long time to sing, but Swift doesn't just sing. There are costume changes and choreography, and basically, a lot of things that could go wrong. And, so, Swift didn't just show up to sing her songs; she prepared relentlessly. She even worked out in training for the grueling schedule. 

"I wanted to be so over-rehearsed that I could be silly with the fans, and not lose my train of thought," Swift said.

Swift understands a thing that is easy to forget once you've achieved a particular level of success. She is an entertainer. Her job is to bring people joy by getting on a stage and performing. For that, she is very well compensated, but it's encouraging that she hasn't lost sight of the responsibility she has created for herself to her fans. More importantly, she understands the expectations they have, and she prepared accordingly.

"I know I'm going on that stage whether I'm sick, injured, heartbroken, uncomfortable, or stressed," she told Time. "That's part of my identity as a human being now. If someone buys a ticket to my show, I'm going to play it unless we have some sort of force majeure." 

Expectations Are Everything

Second, Swift has--better than almost anyone--mastered the idea that the way you delight people isn't by giving them what they expect. It's by giving them more. 

If you simply do what you said you were going to do, that's great, but, honestly, that's like the minimum required effort. After all, it's what you said you were going to do. No one is delighted because the airline lands in the right city, at the time it was scheduled to land. That's just the expectation.

On the other hand, you remember when someone goes above and beyond. You remember experiences that exceed your expectations. That's how Swift approaches her fans, many of whom went to great lengths and spent a lot of money to see her perform.

"They had to work really hard to get the tickets," Swift said. "I wanted to play a show that was longer than they ever thought it would be, because that makes me feel good leaving the stadium."

Perspective Goes a Long Way

Finally, Swift seems aware that her career is at a point most people will never experience. More importantly, she seems to understand that her career won't always look like this, and it helps her keep perspective:

"Nothing is permanent. So I'm very careful to be grateful every second that I get to be doing this at this level, because I've had it taken away from me before. There is one thing I've learned: My response to anything that happens, good or bad, is to keep making things. Keep making art."

Over the past few years, Swift has consistently delivered what her fans want, whether that's music, concerts, or re-recorded albums. Even during the pandemic lockdowns, she recorded two new albums. 

Her level of output would be hard for anyone else, certainly for someone without her unique set of circumstances. Still, there is a lesson here: your job is to focus on what you can control and let go of everything else. Most of us focus on far too many things we can't control, but most of it is just noise to distract you from what matters. A little perspective can go a long way to help. 

 

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