Why the Audience Applauds

Accountability Contribution Purpose


Key Point: Leadership is always about people and purpose. Most of us know who Yo-Yo Ma is. This world-renowned cellist is the recipient of numerous awards including 17 Grammys, the Polar Music Prize, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ma is a graduate of both Juilliard and Harvard University. However, what I find profoundly interesting about Ma is his philosophy and framework: Hey says, “My passion is actually for people. So the exploration into different music of different times has to do with trying to figure out who these people are, what this music represents and what context do we want to give it and what does it mean to us right now.”

Nelson Mandela is perhaps the most revered moral leader in modern times. And Mandela was first and foremost about ALL the African people. He says, “I have fought against white domination. I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all people live together in harmony…”

So while the roadmap to guide us in leadership and contribution is quite cluttered with advice, the most impactful leaders in entertainment, politics, business and elsewhere have an uncanny and perhaps unusual ability to make their purpose in life about other people. They focus on what others deeply need, value and appreciate. And by always asking themselves what is most important to the “audience,” they tirelessly dig until they strike some seemingly unassailable vein. Their medium may be music, a boardroom or pulpit but their “story” literally captures the audience in a deep, emotional way. And that inspires people to feel and act.

Additionally, I will argue that the power of having an aspirational ideal and purpose gives renowned leaders an advanced moral identity that makes leadership choices clear. Everything is viewed through the lens of people and purpose. And hence the true leaders’ identity and self becomes synonymous with their purpose, emotionally and meaningfully connecting with people for some greater good. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Few of us will ever be touched by history and become a Mandela or Ma. But all of us can take a moment before we set out for the day to think about the “audience” in front of us. What do they need from us? We can be mindful that our actions define us, state our purpose and define our identity. 
  2. All of us can think of our purpose as the story we want and hope people tell about us. If we are fortunate, someday someone will be telling a story about us at our 85th birthday. What will your story be about? What will they say about what you stood for? How will you have made some deep emotional connection with those singing happy birthday? 

P.S. Last Sunday was my mom’s 85th birthday. What a story you’ve created. Happy Birthday, sweetie. 

People and purpose in The Triangle 


One Millennial View: The phrase “do it for the story” has become some sort of Millennial mantra… In fact, what today, isn’t about telling a story to an audience? Check out the average person’s Instagram. It’s all about connecting with followers, attempting to document the highlights, values and appreciation of everyday life. What we’re probably not doing is sharing the scene of a standard board meeting or our everyday work experiences on social media… It doesn’t “make the cut.” But if we envision our offices as a platform to also naturally build a story, create relationships, and acquire “followers” (aka peers, bosses, and colleagues that appreciate your presence), maybe that’s a good way to approach it. You might not be taking a picture of the moment, but are you creating a story and appealing enough on a regular basis where an audience would deem it “post worthy?”

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis