A Leadership Lesson from John Lennon

Ed Newman
Ed Newman
Aug 12 · 2 min read

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” — Steve Jobs

Photo by the author.

I came across the following anecdote this week while reading Philip Norman’s Paul McCartney: A Life. It’s similar to advice we hear about routinely in business, though my guess is that it’s seldom applied.

Kudos to John Lennon for having made the wise decision. Had he not, we’d have never heard of a group called The Beatles.

When as a teen Paul McCartney became serious about playing guitar — and he’d been playing it constantly, even when sitting on the toilet — he began looking for a group to play with.

It was a quest that led him to The Quarrymen, with John Lennon the front man. Upon making introductions, and showing his stuff, John had to make a decision, a decision that would change music history.

Up until then he’d been the kingpin of the band, leader and Alpha male of the pack. As he weighed the pros and cons of accepting Paul into the group, he was conscious of the reality that if Paul joined, his own “head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest” stature could be reduced. On the other hand he also knew that the group would be a better group and have a stronger, more powerful stage presence.

In weighing these options John chose what would be best for the team rather than what was best for him.


It’s an important lesson to consider. By choosing to empower another and by choosing what was best for the team, John ultimately became the beneficiary.

Leadership decisions have ramifications. In this instance it was the initial cobbling together of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting factory. Setting aside his ego proved to be an empowering decision that opened more doors than anyone could ever have imagined.

Ed Newman

Written by

Ed Newman

Retired ad man, I’m an avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 https://pioneerproductions.blogspot.com/

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