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Bohemian Rhapsody: Learning to Turn Weakness Into Strength

January 3, 2019

Released at the end of last year, Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen, is already the highest grossing music biopic movie in history. And while Mercury was an amazing singer, it’s his strong business acumen that I most often remember. The man’s mind focused on solving problems, capitalizing on opportunities, and standing out from the pack – a mindset that would have no doubt served him well if he’d ever gone into the multifamily industry!

Mercury was an expert when it came to developing Queen’s unique brand and identity. Born Farrokh Bulsara, he renamed himself Freddy Mercury, and later designed the band’s iconic eye-catching logo, all to draw interest for the fledgling group when it was young. He also encouraged the band to explore several diverse musical styles in their early albums – such as the eight-minute canon-included “The Prophet’s Song”, or the operatic masterpiece “Bohemian Rhapsody” – to help gain musical acceptance in a time when rock music was just becoming widely appreciated.

Another area the band excelled in was scaling. While the group had some early problems getting a record company to sign them, they quickly scaled their group with local concerts and new albums. They continued this rapid scaling by performing at larger and larger venues, capped by the Live Aid performance at Wembley.

Queen also knew how to build a unique brand that gave them notoriety. At a time where rock had just become regularly accepted, the band pushed the envelope, adding several diverse musical styles into an album, as well as experimenting with stereo sounds.

Take, for instance, the A Night at the Opera album. The album featured a track that had an eight-minute run time, complete with a canon in the middle. Another track on the album had a harp and vocals dubbed over each other. Of course, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was also on this album, complete with its operatic tones and additional vocal overlays.

The band also developed strategic partnerships with other major artists along the way, including Monserrat Caballe, David Bowie, and even Michael Jackson, and performed with these musical masters to further Queen’s notoriety and fan base.

Mercury found success by taking a practical business approach to Queen; he differentiated the band in the marketplace, taking advantage of the opportunities he was presented, and he leveraged his network to elevate everyone involved. This stand-out approach has proven paramount for many business leaders in the past, and is exactly the mindset that can help your multifamily management organization shine.

Great businesses promote the differences that exist in people or opportunities and take advantage of them. Famed keynote speaker David Rendel notes that these differences are often the key to providing sources of potential, advantage, effectiveness and joy. Even Sally Shaywitz, a neuroscientist studying dyslexia at Yale, notes that those who turn their talents into disadvantages “are overrepresented in the top ranks of [business] people, who are unusually insightful, who bring a new perspective, who think out of the box.”

Look at Richard Branson. Born dyslexic, he was branded lazy and unintelligent in school. Being an individual that always turns challenges into strengths, he adapted his management style in a manner that would work with his dyslexia, rather than against it, and it’s proven successful for him ever since.

Challenges can present themselves in a variety of outlets, like Branson’s dyslexia or Queen’s uphill battle. To identify where your biggest challenges may be, and how to overcome them as a leader in your business, consider these questions:

  1. Do details make you distraught?If you’re challenged by details, you likely don’t have a preference for ‘structural’ thinking. Focus on laying out your business’s plan five steps further than you think you need. At each step, always ask yourself “at this stage in the game, what is every contingency that someone would need to know?”
  2. Do you usually consider the consequences? If you don’t always think about the ramifications your decisions have on others, you may not have a natural inclination for ‘social’ thinking. To combat this, focus on gaining consensus for an idea from your employees, customers, or shareholders before pushing it through. Along the way, be sure to ask each audience “how will this impact you?”
  3. Are you more focused on the minute? If you conquer the day-to-day, but don’t naturally think about the big picture, you probably are not a ‘conceptual’ thinker. To get your mind into macro-mode, have regular brainstorms, focusing on how one idea connects to another. As you do it, think about what the ramifications of each idea at one, two and five years down the road.
  4. Are you the silent, contemplative type? If you’re naturally quiet, you’ll need to set time aside to express yourself to your team. Conveying your thoughts and emotions to others is a critical aspect of moving your business forward. As you conduct these expressive moments, always ensure you don’t talk over those you lead.
  5. Do you generally prefer consistency? If you like things focused and straightforward, you need to adopt a mindset that’s accepting of the opposite. Change is constantly happening, and being prepared for it is key in our industry. Being open toward switching plans is how you’ll combat that. As you work to readily welcome change, be sure to offer your constituents real, valuable rationale as to why something should shift.

We all have unique qualities that come naturally; things we do well that make us exceptional. Great leadership is about recognizing the things we don’t always do quite as well, and working to capitalize and improve on those things. When looking to set your goals for 2019, remember to stretch those goals further than you know you can reach, and always continue to strive to achieve them.

Don’t let your perceived weaknesses hold you back. Start looking at them as strengths, and take advantage of them to help your business grow in the New Year!

We are the champions, my friends.