How to Boss: An Uncanny Observation from Bruce Springsteen

The Boss shares how to boss — or rather how to become one.

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Years ago as a high school student I was driving to school and Bruce Springsteen came on the radio. Except he wasn’t singing. He was answering questions from a local radio host.

At some point in the interview, Springsteen shared an uncanny observation about parents, paraphrased as best as I can I recall:

The best way I know how to honor your parents is to take all their good attributes and incorporate them into who you are, and leave behind all the bad ones.

That observation has stuck with me for more than 20 years.

If given liberty with “honor” and “parents”, I think we can adapt Springsteen’s observation to a broader scope of leadership in the following ways:

  1. Poor leaders are often the best teachers. Think about it: by closely associating yourself with someone you never want to become, you’ve just taught yourself the attributes and patterns to avoid when leading. Further, you’ve identified how to purge your own deficiencies, some of which may be engrained in your DNA (in the case of learning how to parent from one’s own parent).
  2. Every leader has characteristics that are desirable, and every leader leaves something to be desired. The fact that Springsteen said what he said about his parents is pretty extraordinary when you consider he had a troubled relationship with his father, Doug, who suffered from mental illness. To me, this suggests there’s always something to be learned from others, even when it seems there may be little to learn.
  3. Leading often flows from following. Remarkable leaders often begin as the remarkable followers. “You can’t be a good follower unless you have clearly identified the leader,” Michael Hyatt notes. “While you may be a leader in your own realm, everyone has a boss — including you. Great followers not only accept this fact, they embrace it.” I’ve written about this topic before, suggesting team leaders prioritize aligning with those above them over alignment with their teams.

In short, take the best attributes from those who lead you. Adapt and incorporate them into who you become. Leave behind the bad ones. Just like The Boss said.

Lead on, Boss. 🤘