Susy Wagner, MBA
Writer, Leadership Coach, and Managing Partner, Rabiner Resources
Her name keeps showing up in news headlines as a remarkable businesswoman and social influencer. Here are a few examples:
- Forbes recently named the 26-year-old Gaga as the most powerful celebrity in the world (unseating perennial winner, Oprah Winfrey) and the 11th most powerful woman in the world behind the likes of Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, and Brazil’s President Dilma Rouseff.
- Gaga-endorsed MAC lipsticks have raised $202 million to fight HIV and AIDS.
- Polaroid named Gaga Creative Director of a specialty line of Polaroid Imaging products. (This is a working – not honorary – position.)
- In February, Harvard University announced its collaboration with Gaga on The Born This Way Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering young people to build a “braver, kinder world.”
- She has a monstrous followership: 12 million Twitter followers and 36 million Facebook friends.
While she’s an unlikely leader, her rise to power is a classic study in great leadership. Much has been written about Gaga, and her story helps us understand why she has attracted such a huge following.
Gaga has always known what she wanted. Years ago before she was Lady Gaga, Stephanie Germanotta told friends she intended to become a superstar entertainer. She courageously pursued her dream, overcoming the fears and insecurities that plagued her as a teenager.
Like most successful business people, Gaga loves her work. She is passionate about her music and her desire to reach young people with her message of acceptance. She once said that her passion for her work is “so strong I can’t sleep.”
Gaga is a self-described “master of the art of fame.” She studied why and how others achieved (and lost) fame and then applied those principles to her own work with fearless discipline.
Gaga connects with her followers in a very personal, heart-centered way. She was bullied in high school, was an outsider, and felt different and alone. The primary message to her predominantly teenage audience is supportive: be yourself, love yourself, you are perfect just the way you are.
Finally, Gaga protects her “self” in the process. Her constant costume changes help her maintain some level of privacy and not give away too much of herself. How many of us would recognize her in street clothes and makeup? How much do we really know about her personality and private life?
In short, she’s been visionary, passionate about her work, principled in her approach to achieving success, genuinely concerned about helping the people she serves, fearless in her approach, and rooted in a strong sense of self. That’s a textbook list of leadership qualities and practices.
All too often, fame changes people. Whether or not Lady Gaga can hold on to herself and the principles that have propelled her to become one of the world’s most powerful women is yet to be seen. However, her fearless commitment to the basic principles of achievement and her benevolent use of power have set a great example for women young and old who aspire to succeed and lead.
Susy Wagner, MBA, is a writer, leadership coach, and managing partner with Rabiner Resources, a Portland-based training and development firm specializing in personal development and leadership.