A Lesson in Leadership: What I learned Watching the Broadway Musical The Lion King

I sat watching the Broadway Musical The Lion King, and was struck with a question: What has made this show successful for 20 years, and what could make it stop?

Kale Hungerson
Mar 15, 2018 · 3 min read

It was midway through the Broadway Musical The Lion King, and I thought to myself, “What if the lead character wasn’t here?” It was a moment of clarity and confusion. If the lead character wasn’t here, what would the show be? It was at that moment, I realized the value of the individual, the collective, and discovered the fade.

The Individual

A Broadway Musical is a well organized and perfected performance, in the case of The Lion King, it’s been doing so for 20 years. In many respects, a well-executed performance is a lot like a well-run business and, in the end, it’s all about the people, nothing more, nothing less.

As I watched the performance, I realized I could have no possibility of differentiating absence versus existence in this performance. The lead character could be missing, and I wouldn’t have known the benefit of their presence or the loss of their absence. The same could be said for a stagehand, trumpet player, prop designer, or the lighting specialist.

My naivety as the customer is to only focus on the collective; although, the value of the individual within the collective is paramount to the success of the performance and just the people performing know this.

Unsurprisingly, the individual is most important at the beginning of an idea but as it progresses, it takes more than a single soul to tend to its success, this is the point where each person is essential but equally inconsequential.

The Collective

I began to think about the characters in the performance. If one lead character vanished, would another take a triumphant entrance into the spotlight? If the lead role left, would success follow them to their next performance?

As I watched intently, I saw new intricacies. I would selectively remove an element from the on-going performance and imagine the impact on the show. What would it be without the music? What if the curtain didn’t exist? What if the costumes were not?

Without each person, the performance wouldn’t be the same; each contributor brought a particular talent to the show, that would not be as impactful without one elevating the other.

Knowingly or unknowingly, each of these individuals was utterly dependent on one another for success, and were stronger together than alone.

The Fade

We very rarely recognize or understand absence versus existence when it comes to our roles in organizations. To be absent, you need to exist, to exist you need to make an impact. If you make an impact, your actions will leave a nameless trail for those who follow; thankless but content is the path of a pioneer.

The fade is always imminent; it’s the slow demise. The Lion King has been performing for 20 years to sold-out crowds, but eventually, it will fade as all things do. The pioneers of this endeavor built a strong foundation, in which other significant artists could step into a framework and ensure the performance is continued, but without a new spark, the performance will vanish into histories twilight.

The Spark

The “Spark” is the ribbon of hope, tied as a bow at the end of my thoughts. All things can be reimagined. It only takes a spark, a new approach that makes something old, new again. People contain the spark, and when you feel the fade, you need to reignite with new people, and that spark is contagious.

Oddly enough, I received a free lesson that night on leadership and business. I learned about the importance as well as the inconsequentialness of the individual. I gained an appreciation for the collectives ability to create something more than any sole individual could alone. I discovered the creeping fade, a concept of dimming success left by the pioneers of an original idea, which leave a framework for those who continue their legacy. Finally, the spark, an opportunity to reignite a concept by infusing new people into an old idea.

In the end, I paid for a show and got even more.

PS — The show was great, you should see it!

Kale Hungerson

Written by

WebDev & MarTech professional with a passion for digital transformation, cold brew ☕, and 🌮s! Follow me @kalehungerson or visit kalehungerson.com.

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