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A Lesson in Leadership from Sting

by Guest Writter
Meridith Elliott Powell, Founder & Owner, MotionFirst

Well like it or not, British musician’s Sting’s children are going to have to work for living. In an interview with the Mail Online  the former front man for the 80’s band The Police, revealed that he has no plans to leave his children much if any of his $306 million fortune, fearing trust funds would be an “albatrosses around their neck.”

A rags to riches story himself, Sting, who is the third richest musician in Britain, came from a poor working class family in Northeast England. In the interview, Sting explained he wanted his children to have the same opportunity to earn their way and have that feeling of accomplishment and success that can only come from doing it yourself. He revealed that he has often discussed his plan with his children, and he feels because of that his children have never really expected much financial support from him, and he respects and appreciates that. He went on to share that his goals has been for his children to grow up with an ethic, and a passion to succeed on their own merit.

So why should we care about or listen to how Sting is raising his children, or what he plans to do with his fortune? Because, while it is interesting that a father, worth more than $300 million, has no plans to leave a dime to his children; more importantly, we should listen because of the strong leadership lesson – a powerful message of how to develop people, and a true lesson of leadership.

In the interview, Sting admitted what he wants for his children was what he had, yes certainly a chance to earn a lot of money and become wealthy beyond his wildest dreams; but more importantly, the feeling of accomplishment and success you get only from actually doing it yourself.

So what does Sting’s message teach us about leadership and the challenges facing many business owners and executives today in developing younger talent? While you may think it is a little strange taking leadership advice from a musician, let me explain my reasoning. Many (and most) agree we have a leadership crisis on our hands; with organizations reporting that if not solved will prevent them from having the talent they need to not only run their organizations but also achieve their growth strategies. So with the amount of leadership gaps and shortfalls most organizations are reporting, it just might be time to do something that is a little bit strange, and a little bit different. It might just be time to look outside our corporate walls and take advice from Sting!

3 Results From A Lesson With Sting:

  1. Drive – drive is the push we have to want to succeed, to get back up when we fail, and to commit to the hard work it takes to achieve success. Sting has planted the seeds of drive with his children with the perfect balance of support and belief and “no net” or no guarantee. If you want to build leadership, and create that next level of talent, you have to let your emerging leaders know you believe in them, and be there to provide advice and praise. At the same time, you have to give them the room to fail; allowing them to cut their own path, and develop their own ideas and solutions.
  2. Passion – so often with younger leaders we forget our story and our struggle, and how the power of sharing that will help them on their journey. Sting may not have been generous with his money, but he has been generous with his openness of his story and his struggle. Sharing with his children where he came from, how hard it was, and the mistakes he has made along the way. Most importantly, the courage he had to follow his passion of music, when so many, including his father, told him he was delusional. The power of personal stories in our organizations is vital when developing young leaders; senior leaders sharing and remembering their stories can make them more compassionate and understanding; and for young leaders these stories are a source of inspiration, great learning and motivation.
  3. Confidence – probably the greatest gift of all that Sting is giving his children is confidence. When he shared with them they would have to make their own way, he gave up the right to tell them how to do it, and with that step he laid the groundwork for them to build confidence. Research study after research study reveals that personal confidence is a critical component of success. It is not something, someone else can give you; it is earned through a series of personal wins and overcoming challenges.   If you want to build leaders who have the skills to make decisions, the guts to take a risk and the ability to get results, then you have to give them the room to build their confidence. You can certainly guide them in their decision making and career choices, but at that the end of the day allowing them to take responsibility for their successes and failures will be more powerful than any wisdom you can share.

Yes, it remains to be seen just how successful Sting’s children will be, but that really doesn’t matter. His job, as a father is to provide his children with emotional support and the tools they need to achieve what they want, but how far they go, and what they do is up to them. As leaders trying to develop talent, that is probably our greatest lesson we can take from Sting; it is not our job to guarantee success for anyone, but rather to guarantee a corporate culture where success can be achieved!


About the Author

Meridith Elliott Powell is an internationally certified coach, speaker, and business development expert. Founder and owner of MotionFirst, she helps executives and business owners build cultures that make sales fun, easy and incredibly productive. An award-winning business owner, Meridith’s unique background includes high-level leadership and executive positions in sales, marketing and finance. Her signature style and her ability to rapidly connect with people make her a sought-after speaker, coach and strategist. Honors include the Athena Leadership Award, inclusion in Verve Magazine’s “Top 20 Professional Women to Watch” (2010) and selection as “Best Business Coach” by the WNC Business Journal in 2008. She is the author of Winning in the Trust and Value Economy (Global Professional Publishing, 2013); and signed on with a major online radio network to host her own weekly show.

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