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  • Writer's pictureKayla Morse Higgs

Striking a New Chord: Leadership Lessons from Beyoncé's 'Cowboy Carter'

Updated: Jun 24

In a world where the tempo of change is ever-accelerating, leaders are often tasked with composing the future's soundtrack without missing a beat. Enter Beyoncé’s "Cowboy Carter." Her audacious foray into country music echoes more than just a genre shift—it resonates with the heart of what it takes to be an effective leader through personal and professional change.

Listening through her album has not only got me singing along and tapping my feet, but it has also gotten me thinking about what she's showing us with this work of art. Here at Nu Balance Consulting, we believe leadership is like art; it's not all technical, tactical, and about results—it’s also about how people are made to feel by your presence and the lasting mark of your impact. Beyoncé has given us more than an album of good catchy music; she has given us something that we can feel and remember.

As a leadership coach and consultant, these are a few of the lessons that I’ve gathered from listening to "Cowboy Carter":

Embrace the Unexpected:

Beyoncé’s pivot to country is as unexpected as it is strategic, mirroring the necessary agility in today's leadership landscape. It's about the harmony of risk and reward, and the courage to venture beyond the comfort of genre—much like steering through uncharted waters in organizational change. Leaders must embrace the new and the novel, finding potential in the unexplored, to make new marks on new territories. That’s what I love and respect about Beyoncé; she is always propelling herself to create, innovate, and grow. She knows growth comes with healthy risk, but it can also reap generous rewards.

Also, I’m pretty sure she anticipated backlash and critique—it comes with the territory. Not just because she’s Beyoncé, but with any change, you can count on resistance. It’s like a two-for-one; you don't get change without resistance. Instead of dodging resistance, she embraced it—platinum blonde hair, cowboy boots, and all.

Prioritize the Essential:

Beyoncé’s unwavering focus on her craft and her audience underlines a principle that is pivotal in leadership: the disciplined pursuit of less. She reminds us that in the cacophony of tasks and targets, it is essential to distill our focus to what truly matters. For Beyoncé, it is her art and her innovation. No matter the genre or form, she’s going to innovate and create masterpieces that will be a part of our cultural schema for a lifetime. Leaders must cut through the noise, prioritize ruthlessly, and invest in actions that align with their core mission. What's at your core mission?

Empower and Uplift:

Just as Beyoncé leverages her stage to spotlight diversity and uplift marginalized voices, strong leaders empower. Good leaders discern talent and potential, and actively cultivate it. In the nonprofit sector, there is a succession problem, where we don’t actively invest in nurturing talent that stays and matriculates in the field. Conversely, in the education space, we promote but often don’t “skill up” our talent, leaving learning gaps that lead to frustration and ineffectiveness. The act of leadership is not just to lead but to elevate, ensuring that every member of the team feels seen, heard, valued, and invested in. Beyoncé’s intentional effort to include marginalized or little-known voices from the past and present on her album underlines her very visible commitment to elevate and promote special talent.

Reclaim and Redefine:

Beyoncé's exploration of country music serves as an act of reclamation, honoring the genre's Black origins, and redefining its narrative. Leadership, in this vein, requires the audacity to rewrite the old scripts of operation, to innovate legacies, and to shift paradigms that no longer serve the collective crescendo.

How many times as leaders are we wedded to rituals, routines, and traditions just because we're familiar with them? In my work, I've seen companies and organizations that aggrandize "their way" as if it were holy and untouchable. Good leaders can differentiate what is sacred and necessary from what is ritualistic and a barrier. Beyoncé has blown up the country industry, redefining what is sacred and reclaiming space for those that were silenced and pushed to the margins.

With "Cowboy Carter," Beyoncé does more than cross genres; she forges a new path of artistic bravery and echoes the essence of transformative leadership. This album serves as a clarion call for leaders to not just forecast change but to foster it, to not just direct but to truly connect. It is an anthem for those ready to challenge the status quo, just as Beyoncé does with every note she sings. As we tune into her journey, let it inspire ours. Let's compose our own anthems of leadership that embody courage, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of what truly matters. Because in the symphony of change, it's those who dare to conduct with authenticity and passion who create the most enduring legacies.

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