Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success

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Which leadership Beatle are you?

When you're born and raised in the Liverpool area three things are important (accepting that family is important everywhere): humour, football and music. And no music is more important to Liverpool than that of The Beatles. I spent almost every Saturday night in my early 20s at the Cavern Club (although it's not the original one, that was filled in with rubble in 1973 to make a car park - nice going Liverpool City Council) and walking down Mathew Street you can't help but feel the history.

The Beatles themselves came together in fairly unremarkable circumstances, and their story has been played out in some good movies (and some rubbish ones too). As individuals all four members contributed something distinctly different to the success of the band and for the most part continued that success following their split in 1970. They were included in the Time magazine top 100 most influential people and they still hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100. With 600m records sold worldwide, The Beatles are still the world's most successful band.

But which leadership style do you most associate yourself with?

The Ringo
Promoted to the band because the previous guy (Pete Best) wasn't up to the job, Ringo was a solid session drummer who was exactly what George Martin was looking for. He wasn't particularly versatile - even I can sing Yellow Submarine in tune! - but was consistently good at what he did. After The Beatles, Ringo went solo with limited success and then found renewed fame with a whole new audience as the voice over forThomas and Friends. Despite never being lauded as one of the greats, Ringo (rightly) is regarded as one of the best drummers of his time. Key characteristics:

  • Knows strengths
  • Dependable
  • Keeps opinions to self.

The John
A founder of the band along with Paul and it's oldest member, John was the most artistic and most controversial member of The Beatles. A brilliant songwriter, John always felt that he wasn't writing the lyrics he wanted to and was frequently concerned that people couldn't hear the music over the screaming of the fans, once remarking 'when I sang Help!, I meant it!'. As his drug use became heavier, John pushed the boundaries of writing (how else can you explain 'I Am The Walrus'?!) before disbanding The Beatles in acrimonious circumstances in 1970. After the split John recorded successful solo albums, enjoying huge success with 'Imagine' and also used his status to campaign against the Vietnam War and the Nigerian Civil War whilst demanding that the world 'Give Peace a Chance'. John was tragically murdered in 1980, but his legacy remains intact. Key characteristics:

  • Thinks past convention
  • Single minded
  • Not afraid to speak mind.

The Paul
Possibly the most well known of all The Beatles, Paul continues to pull in the crowds wherever he goes. He played bass guitar, lead guitar, piano and drums and was the other half of the most successful song writing duo in history. A driving force behind the band in every way, he wasn't as popular inside it as he was outside of it as he was seen as a 'controlling' influence with George once remarking that 'Paul was happy to work on the song I'd written once we'd perfected the 10 he'd written'. Post-Beatles, Paul had huge success with Wings ('Mull of Kintyre' anyone?) as well as working with some of the biggest artists in world music. A founder and benefactor of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts as well as an activist on behalf of animal rights, poverty and land mines, it's likely we'll never see a musician as successful as Paul ever again. Key characteristics:

  • Versatile
  • Driven
  • Doesn't like to rock the boat.

The George
As the youngest member of the group, George was the guitarist the fledgling Beatles didn't have. As the band grew, George incorporated blues, rockabilly and eastern influences from outside the group as a way of making them more progressive. He was the first of the band to give up drugs in the 60s replacing it with meditation and spirituality. Frequently annoyed by the lack of equality within the band, George eventually wrested creative control from Paul on the Abbey Road album with 'Here Comes The Sun' and 'Something' the highlights. Post-Beatles George found great success both as a solo artist as well as with the collaborative and creatively equal Traveling Wilburys. He was also a benefactor to the innovative Monty Python comedy team. George survived a knife attack in 1999, but died from lung cancer in 2001. His guitar playing is lauded to this day whilst Eric Idle said on the anniversary of his death that he is still "one of the few morally good people that rock and roll has produced".

Key characteristics:

  • Authentic
  • Collaborative
  • Gets frustrated at a lack of equality.

The Beatles are a perfect example of a team who individually would not have achieved the success that they did collectively. It was a combination of their characteristics that contributed to that success. Great leaders will use a mix of these, however they'll likely have a preference for one.

As a younger leader, I was always a Paul. Hard working, driven, making sure the team I was leading got the job done, but always ready with a laugh and a joke, not always appropriately. As I've grown, learned and developed my business I'm more of a George these days, but know that I need a little bit of Paul, John and Ringo depending on the situation that I'm in. And with that, I'll Let It Be.

To listen to The Beatles, go here!
Sincere thanks to Dan Gregory for helping me to develop this idea.

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