February 18, 2017
The Wu-Tang Clan Guide to Executive Leadership
If you are close to or have reached the Executive Level at your company in the last few years it’s safe to say Wu-Tang raised you…or was at least around while you were “coming up” the ladder. And the fact that Wu-Tang appeared in the title of this article, and you have chosen to read it tells me I’m right. So let’s explore what these dudes know about leadership.
…and don’t try to tell me nothing, because they’ve effectively managed a brand and steered their ship Through. It. All.
They’ve been “spitting rhymes” since 1993…that number has a 19 in the front! That’s 23 years. Has your start-up been around 23 years? Has your career? Heck, has your job title? That’s what I thought. Read and learn…
WITTY UNPREDICTABLE TALENT AND NATURAL GAME
There’s something to be said for a well-placed acronym within your business to keep an important phrase or concept top of mind. Wu-Tang Clan is master of this, creating many meaningful acronyms in its music, and in real life. In fact, the ridiculous name “Wu-Tang” is an acronym for Witty Unpredictable Talent and Natural Game.
That’s right, they didn’t name themselves after that orange drink from when you were 7, Wu-Tang is an acronym for words Clan members use to describe themselves, and words with meanings they aspire to in their lives and music.
Deep, I know.
Speaking of acronyms…
At the executive level culture, personnel management, and a positive work environment are important worthwhile endeavors, but at the end of the day, the budget rules all. Or in the wise words of Wu – Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M. – blowing your mind with acronyms). Your business will not exist to provide a work culture unless you have income.
Pay attention to your bottom line, track your budgets, income, and expenditures efficiently, and create systems when necessary to streamline it all and keep the financials humming like a well-oiled machine. Because C.R.E.A.M.
GHOSTFACE, MEET DENNIS
Find your nicknames. No, not nicknames literally, but figuratively. Find the “nicknames” your business needs to get attention, gain credibility, and look 100 times cooler than it is. Let me tell you what I mean. Would you listen to a group named Wu-Tang Clan if it was comprised of members named Clifford Smith, Gary Grice, Dennis Coles, Russell Jones, and Robert Diggs?
No. No, you wouldn’t. But name these same individuals Method Man, GZA, Ghostface, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard…well, that’s a little more like it. Clifford and Gary would get zero traction in the rap game, but Method Man and GZA have been ridiculously successful.
Define your brand, then don’t be afraid to get creative – even to the level of ridiculous – so your brand stands out from the rest.
Loosely related and taking the “nicknames” theme literally, don’t be afraid to be human with your staff, and develop professional relationships with them. Natural nickname acquisition is just one example of something in the business world that will endear employees or partners to your business.
TAKE A LESSON FROM WU – DON’T BE THREATENED WHEN YOUR TEAM MEMBERS HAVE A SIDE HUSTLE
Because seriously, who doesn’t have a side hustle these days?
I know what you’re thinking…BUT BUT BUT, what if their side hustle takes off and they leave? Or even worse, what if their side hustle takes off and takes business away from my regular hustle?
I will counter your “what if” with another…What if one of your employees has a side hustle that blows up and asks you to invest before they go public? What if one of your employees has a side hustle that makes it big and they become a well-known, super famous innovator* and name YOU as their mentor? Then what? Think about it, then what?
Both of you enjoy increased profitability, notoriety, and success, right? If Method Man hadn’t branched out and dropped a solo album Wu-Tang Clan would have experienced only a fraction of the success it knows today. A rising tide lifts all boats, my friend, take it from Wu.
*Of course there is always something to be said for proprietary information and invention. A thieving employee who uses your idea in their side hustle and makes bank off of it owes you…the bank.
WHY YES, YOU CAN BUY CLEANED UP WU-TANG ALBUMS
If Wu-Tang understands anything, it’s that appealing to a diverse audience is always possible – even the most explicit album can be cleaned up to appeal to those with more delicate sensibilities. In business, the same concept applies, and it’s not two-faced, it’s necessary to have a game face…a flip side that appeals more effectively to a different faction of your audience.
Real life example: your team is given less than 24 hours to create a sales presentation and pitch it in person to a potential client that could change EVERYTHING for you. Behind the closed doors of your office, as you prepare an innovative wow-worthy presentation with your closest team members you’re frenzied, probably barking orders, definitely dropping a few f-bombs, and certainly dressed for comfort wearing leggings as pants. But then…it’s go time for the big pitch, you put on your boss face (and pants), and you go from chaos to charisma in zero time flat. IN that room, you’re locked down, dialed in, perfectly spitting your own clean lyrics to nail the presentation. Well done – your new high dollar client never has to know what a psycho you were two hours ago.
Just like Wu-Tang has two sides to its music – you’re allowed to have two sides to your business persona.
LIFE AS A SHORTY SHOULDN’T BE SO ROUGH…
A well-known Wu-Tang lyric, there are many meanings to draw from this one. For you, Shorty may be your kid(s), partner, close friends, or fur baby. Find a work/life balance that fits you and Shorty, and work it to the level where you don’t feel you’re neglecting the ones you love the most. Or maybe those iterations of Shorty don’t apply to you, but you are a leader in your workplace with direct reports or departmental oversight responsibilities.
Be kind to the entry-level learners, interns, and new people. Because seriously, life as a Shorty at your new job shouldn’t be so rough.
Valuable leadership lessons can be taken from anywhere, and Wu-Tang Clan is no exception. So get to work on some hard-hitting acronyms, bless those of you working a side hustle, kiss your loved ones, and come up with some nicknames. Sorry though, Linda, the name Ghostface is already taken.
Download the Wu-Tang Clan Guide to Executive Leadership poster!