In May, I put on my sparkles and bracelets to attend the Paramore and Taylor Swift concert in Lisbon, Portugal – an unforgettable experience and performance I will never forget! 

Though I am not the first to make the links between the leadership lessons from Taylor Swift’s success and her approach to working with her team.

Here are seven leadership lessons that came to life during the concert for me: 

  1. Be Aware of Your Audience
  2. Be Present and Authentic
  3. Trust and Empower Your Team
  4. Lift Others Up
  5. Appreciate and Compensate Your Team
  6. Surprise and Delight
  7. Communicate Openly

Tune Into Your Tribe

When Paramore opened for Taylor Swift, Haley Wiliams, the lead singer, asked the audience to give a thumbs up to signal that everything was okay. Taylor Swift also spoke Portuguese to alert venue staff that people in the crowd needed help. Both artists demonstrated genuine care and concern, as well as a keen sense of awareness of their surroundings.

Questions for Leaders: 

  • How do you actively listen to your employees, customers and stakeholders?
  • In what ways are you responding to meet their needs?

Translation from the stage to your office: 

  • Do your homework to know your audience (research, read bios, etc.)
  • Remove distractions in order to be hyper-aware of your audience’s needs 
  • If you see something, say something. 
  • Observe body language and group dynamics to shift where needed

Be Present and Genuine 

We all got the chills during Folklore when Taylor Swift was at the piano and the audience erupted in cheers for an extended period of time. Then the lights came on, which rarely happens, and she seemed totally moved by the outpouring of love. Watching her fans share their energy and love created a magical moment that highlighted the deep connection between Taylor and her audience.

Question to Leaders: 

  • How do you ensure you are fully present in your interactions, whether in meetings, one-on-one discussions, or public speaking engagements?

Translation from the stage to your office:  

  • Listen to your team and colleagues without interrupting
  • Demonstrate presence by being punctual, attentive, and fully engaged in interactions
  • Reschedule when you are too distracted to be fully present. 

Trust and Empower 

The fun-loving, relaxed, and positive environment clearly demonstrated that trust had been established by all involved in the Eras Tour. Taylor Swift’s collaboration with her team on stage allowed them the creative freedom to contribute their best moves, express themselves with playful facial expressions, and show up fully and authentically.

Question to Leaders: 

  • What are you doing to create an environment where team members feel safe to express unconventional ideas? 
  • What techniques do you apply to foster innovation and hold people accountable?

Translation from the stage to your office: 

  • Offer resources, training, and guidance so people can succeed in their roles.
  • Keep your team informed about organizational goals, challenges, and changes. 
  • Disagree and commit to calculated risks and innovation.

Lift Others Up

Taylor Swift and Hayley Williams beamed with smiles and pride as they spotlighted their dancers and band members, shining a light on their invaluable contributions to the performance. Both artists consistently support their peers by collaborating with and inviting both established and emerging talents to share the limelight.

Questions for Leaders: 

  • How do you support and mentor team members and colleagues? 
  • In what ways do you recognize and promote others’ talents and achievements?

Translation from the stage to your office: 

  • Provide opportunities for team members to showcase their talents or share expertise with the wider team or organization so they can shine and be seen.
  • Invite others ‘on stage’ with you (to attend a meeting, to present at a conference)

Surprise and Delight

When Taylor Swift played her surprise mashup of “Come Back…Be Here/The Way I Loved You/The Other Side of the Door” and “Fresh Out the Slammer/High Infidelity” my nieces went wild with excitement!  I wish I had known all the words! What I continue to love is her ability to surprise a crowd, reimagine each performance, and stay relevant with her evolving audience. 

Questions for Leaders

  • What do you do to surprise and delight your team? Your colleagues? Your clients? 
  • What checks and balances do you have in place to know when to pivot strategies?

Translation from the stage to your office: 

  • Surprise team members with personalized notes, gifts, or tokens of appreciation 
  • Offer unexpected benefits or perks
  • Establish feedback mechanisms from team members, colleagues, and clients to know what is working and what could be better
  • Gather a team to think up creative ways to keep people engaged

Communicate Openly  

Haley Williams of Paramore shared what an honor and privilege it was to be at a history making event that evening. Neither she or Taylor Swift held back sharing their emotions, what was ahead and the impact the evening was having on them. I have always appreciated Taylor’s direct communication style, whether addressing her fans, the media, or industry issues. 

Questions for Leaders: 

  • How do you open the lines of communication with your team? 
  • How do you ensure that the directions you have provided are clear? 
  • What criteria do you have in place to determine what to share broadly with all vs what needs to be kept closer to the chest?

Translation from the stage to your office: 

  • In addition to sharing what you think, share how you feel.  
  • Apply guiding criteria when dispersing communications for consistency. 
  • Be clear about WHAT needs to be shared and WHY.  For example, if you have to say NO to someone or something, share why and how you got to the NO. 

Reward and Recognize 

Though I did not see Taylor Swift distributing paychecks or dolling out bonuses, she is known for generously compensating her tour staff and collaborators, and has been vocal about artists’ rights and fair compensation in the music industry.

Questions for Leaders: 

  • How are you making sure your team members are fairly compensated? 
  • In what ways are you showing genuine appreciation and acknowledging their contributions?

Translation from the stage to your office:  

  • Ensure there is no gender, race, or any other form of discrimination in pay practices.
  • Write a personalized thank-you note
  • Tailor recognition efforts to individual preferences