Back in March, Fortune magazine ranked her sixth on their Top 50 World’s Greatest Leaders list. But Fortune went further, naming Swift the world’s greatest female leader.
So why has Swift been getting all this acclaim? She seems to have the courage to fight big corporations for the little guy and girl of the music industry.
First she pulled her entire catalogue of music from Spotify because the streaming service didn’t adequately compensate artists for songs streamed on certain tiers of its service.
Then she went toe-to-toe with Apple and its CEO Tim Cook over the computer and music behemoth’s attempt to deny musicians payment for songs on Apple Music, a new streaming service.
To entice customers to sign up, Apple offered three-months free subscription to the streaming service. During the free trial period, Apple announced it would not pay musicians for any music it streamed.
Swift took exception, and publicly called out Apple on the business model. “I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company,” Swift wrote on Tumblr. She also threatened to withhold her bestselling album, 1989, from Apple Music.
After Swift’s comments went viral, Apple caved to the pressure and promised it would indeed pay artists for any music used during the trial period for the streaming service.
Not everyone agreed with Fortune’s ranking of Swift as a top 50 leaders but when you look at her actions, I think you can see the essence of good leadership. She is enormously successful and wealthy, and doesn’t stand to lose much when she battles big corporate interests. And yet, she used her gravitas and industry heft to force change for the benefit of all musical artists.
Unfortunately, Swift is finding out that once you’ve been identified as a great leader, your every move is watched very closely. As a result, you have to ensure that everything you say and do is consistent.
It turns out that following her successful battle with Apple, stories began to arise about Swift doing to photographers what she had complained big companies were doing to musicians.
Photographers that cover her concerts are forced to sign a contract that gives Swift gives her “perpetual” rights to use their photographs without compensation. The photographers publicly challenged Swift for doing to them exactly what Apple was trying to do to musicians.
“I find Taylor Swift’s stance on contracts to be extremely hypocritical,” said Jason Sheldon, who wrote an open letter to Swift challenging her photo contract policy. “But she’s not alone in it. Foo Fighters, Kylie Minogue and Beyonce all have restrictions that are incredibly unfair to professional photographers.”
Is Swift hypocritical? At the very least, she is not trying to be overly consistent in her approach to intellectual property issues. On the one hand, she champions the right of musicians to be paid every time someone listens to one of their songs; on the other hand, she does not think that professional photographers deserve the same treatment.
Swift has definitely used her influence to be a true leader in some respects. In other respects, she has not embraced the need to show true consistency and integrity in all that she does.
Integrity, a key trait of any great leader, is defined as “the state of being whole and undivided.” That is a rule to live by for all leaders. You must have and that means maintaining a consistency in all that you say and do.
For Swift to be considered a truly great leader, she is going to have to learn to be consistent and not send mixed messages. This is a good reminder for all of us in leadership roles.
This week’s leadership gut check asks: are you a hypocrite?
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About the Author
Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.Follow on Twitter More Content by Vince Molinaro