Lessons from Leonard Cohen


Last week I went and saw Leonard Cohen performing at the tennis centre here in Melbourne. In a word – awesome! The guy is 75, and delivered an unbelievable show. At the beginning he promised that he and the band would give their all … and three and a quarter hours, three encores and five standing ovations later I think ev eryone in the packed house would have agreed that he’d kept his promise.

In a way Leonard is running a very successful practice focusing on the authoring (albums and books) mode and the speaking (well, singing) mode. On the way home I was reflecting on what us Thought Leaders can learn from Mr. Cohen.

The first is an obsession with our IP. Leonard Cohen is a poet and a songwriter, and his obsession with his lyrics is legendary. There are lines in his songs that he has taken a year to write. He agonises over each word. And you can tell – he thinks hard and deep about what he wants to say. A broken halleluiah … 1000 kisses deep … here I stand. Lyrics that have the power to make your hair stand on end.

As thought leaders our job is to think, sell and deliver. And when we are thinking, I think that’s how we want to be about it. Think hard and deep about what we want to say, and aim to be word perfect.

The second lesson is how he delivered – he gave everything he had, all of himself. And he’s 75 and has been singing some of these songs for 45 years. When we are in front of a room or in front of a client or a prospect how dare we give anything less?

I know the next time I’m feeling tired, or bored, or feel myself going into autopilot I’m going to think of Leonard Cohen at 75 years of age at 11 pm coming out for his third encore, and channel a bit of that.