Salvador López with his Jerzy Drozd handmade guitar
Rock and roll: Salvador López with his Jerzy Drozd handmade guitar © Susana Gellida

Once, being tedious was a celebrated character trait among the world’s business elite. No more. Where chief executives of the past were grey, sensible and required to sell things proficiently, the business leader of the present must “touch lives” and “change paradigms”. Boringness in a central banker was once a measure of reliability.

Now, with the arrival of Mark Carney in the Bank of England, we have the “rock star” central banker.

Salvador López, a marketing and research professor at Spain’s Esade business school, believes the business world has much to learn from rock stars in these demanding times. From their ability to stand out in a congested marketplace, to a knack of establishing a loyal following with their audiences, to learning how to embrace innovation. So what can Lloyd Blankfein learn from Mick Jagger?

Why do you think companies can learn from rock musicians?

In the world of business we want to have fans instead of clients and to understand this we need to study musicians. Musicians need to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. In the same way, businesses need to attract people’s attention and win friends.

Surely the worlds of executives and musicians are very far apart?

Great musicians are like social innovators and companies and their leaders must be the same. One of my favourite innovation strategies demonstrated by musicians is when they mix things that weren’t linked before. Black Sabbath is a great example of creativity and innovative strategy, as they were one of the first bands to mix music with the emotion of fear, and helped to create heavy metal.

Pink Floyd mixed music with light and colour onstage to create a new experience and the Rolling Stones created a new paradigm of music mixed with bad behaviour.

But how actually can a company use this to improve?

I interviewed Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden to talk about talent and how it should be managed. He said there are many talented musicians in the world, but determination is the key to success. There are not as many determined people in the world as there are talented ones.

There are many talent management programmes in big companies. I believe talent is only one part of the equation. Talent is part of our DNA, you can have talent playing flute or making deals. But enthusiasm is what ignites the engine of talent. When enterprises are managing high-performance teams they need to focus on talent, enthusiasm and also determination. That is what makes the difference.

So are modern day chief executives becoming more like rock stars?

We need leaders with a face and a name – every company needs that. Apple was one with Steve Jobs and also Bill Gates with Windows. Companies where nobody knows the chief executive, or where the leader is very grey, are not going to succeed. We are in a world now where everything goes on the internet.

How can chief executives make themselves more appealing?

While it probably helps if a chief executive is good-looking, you can be attractive physically or mentally. You need to have communication skills and an attractive way of thinking. Chief executives need to be social influencers in the same way as Lady Gaga, or Chris Martin from Coldplay.

But how can your average company manager ever hope to compete with Lady Gaga for attention?

They need to do more than just sell products – they need to create emotion. Steve Jobs invented an entire style and made people feel things though his products.

They also need to use technology well. Musicians are very good at adopting technology to get in touch with their fans, their clients. Lady Gaga has many more followers on Twitter than President Obama. If she has something to say to the world, 30m people will read it.

We need more executives who are social influencers. We need guides and leaders.

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