Co-Leading and the E Street Band
Lead Coach and Facilitator at Choose Leadership | Working with Purpose Driven Leaders and Organisations
Bruce Springsteen Max Weinberg playing music

“Well, we busted out of class, had to get away from those fools…”

And so it began in Dublin: three hours of pulsing songs from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

The next day, while nursing sore feet over a coffee, there was one image of the evening that I couldn’t get out of my head: that of drummer Max Weinberg staring intently at Bruce, and how they communicated in the midst of a whirling dervish of rhythm and music.

There is an irony in this: Springsteen is known as “The Boss” – an arch-typical Leader from the Front. And yet, the examples of co-leading abounded: with saxophone player Jake Clemons on “Born to Run”, with his fabulous backing singers on “Nightshift”, with Little Steven Van Zandt on “No Surrender”, and the E Street Horns on “Kitty’s Back”.

The Co-Active Training Institute Leadership Model labels co-leading as the domain of Leaders Beside:

“They take responsibility for their world by creating their relationship and partnership around a shared vision and intention. They support each other’s strength so as to generate a powerful synergy in which the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.”

The essence of Leading from Beside is partnering and co-creating. It requires co-leaders to lean into each other not 50:50, but 100:100. Nobody in the E Street Band phones it in.

That requires alignment around an intention, around what they want to co-create. Friday it was a bond with their audience and giving us an evening of music and memories.

Co-leaders also need to align around the impact they wish to co-create. On Friday they co-created moments of joy, hope, reflection, possibility, solidarity, gratitude and communion.

I know that Friday night was the product of over 50 years of practice and relationship: the words between songs not necessarily being said for the first time, the interplay between the band and audience not always as spontaneous as it might appear. But this flow was not created without risk.

Risk that they try something and hit a bum note. Risk that the audience doesn’t appreciate some of the new songs. Risk that they are getting older. But co-leading allows you to risk AND be caught by your co-leader. It creates the space for a new and bigger possibility to emerge. This is where the magic happens.

My abiding memories are twofold:

One, they were dripping in sweat at the end of the evening. They gave everything in service of their purpose as the whole became so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Two: their faces were visions of joy and euphoria. They were completely in the moment, embracing their co-leading and surrendering to the music. They each received as much as they gave.

Look into your own life, at work with a co-creator, at home with your partner, on the pitch with your teammate, or in your family with your sibling:

Where could intentional co-leading bring more magic and joy to your life?

Image ©Irish Independent 2023

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