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Success in your artist career depends on your ability to clearly articulate your vision, your goals, and the values that your organization will follow to attain said goals. Essentially you need to be a better leader.how-to-be-a-better-leader-story-brand


You need to be a great leader.


Your artist life would be easier if you learned how to be a better leader.


The inspiration for this article came from an interview with Ken Blanchard (who wrote the NYT bestseller The One Minute Manager) on a killer podcast called Building a Story Brand with Donald Miller.


Simplicity in leadership.




That’s the key and also the hardest part to attain. It’s a lot like songwriting I guess. It is super difficult to write a simple song.



Big companies get paid tons of money to analyze campaigning politician’s effectiveness at reaching their audience. In other words, they get paid to assess and improve their communication skills.





Jeb Bush communicated at an 8th-grade level during the primaries and Donald Trump communicates at a 4th-grade level.



Love him or hate him, Donald Trump communicates better, more simplistically. Therefore, people understood him better than Jeb Bush. It’s no surprise he got the nomination.




Leaders need to keep their messages simple. The more complex you make the message the fewer people will come on board.





Would it surprise you that Blanchard’s bestseller, The One Minute Manager, was co-written by children’s book author?


It’s a children’s book for managers. Genius!


It’s a parable.




There are some rules to writing parables.



You know the challenge very quickly in every Aesop’s Fable, don’t you? You also know the challenge within about 8-10 minutes of any given movie.



First, you have to tell people where you’re going and what you want to do. Clear goal setting always precedes a good performance.





From you or anybody on your team.




How clear are your goals? “I want to make it” isn’t clear.





It’s the opposite of clear. It’s also cliché. If you’re expecting to get your team to fall in line behind you on the idea that “you want to make it” you’re screwing yourself on step one.



You sound naïve.


You sound shallow.


How often do you complain, point fingers, or scold your team members? Now I’m not just talking about your band, but everyone on your artist team.





Once they’re clear on the goals try as hard as you can to catch them doing something right!


People love to be validated and affirmed from their leader, particularly in the beginning.





Here’s a great idea for a reprimand when they do something wrong. “I noticed you said you were going to accomplish this task by Monday and its now Tuesday and you still haven’t done it. I’m upset with you but I want you to know that the reason I’m upset is that you’re better than that!”


You end the reprimand with a reaffirmation.



If you can’t reaffirm that person then you need to be redirecting them.


Think about that one for a second.


I can guarantee you that if your team isn’t clear on the goals, it’s your fault.



You’re the leader.


All successes and failures ultimately fall on you. You’re the one that wants to be the artist.





It doesn’t take more than a minute to find out if someone is clear on the goal.


It doesn’t take more than a minute to praise somebody’s progress.



It doesn’t take more than a minute to tell somebody, “I noticed your performance is not going the way it should be, how can I help?”


Redirect them.



All leadership is about going somewhere, so you have to be clear about where you want to go.









If you asked anybody during the primary what Donald Trump wanted to do for the country, everyone knows he wants to “Make America Great Again”.



But what did Jeb Bush want to do for the country?




Nobody knew.


Ken Blanchard wrote a “Leadership Vision Paper” and tried to get Obama and Romney (back in the day) to use it.


Blanchard feels, and I agree, we have lost our vision as a country. We don’t know what how-to-be-a-better-leader-visionbusiness we’re in anymore, we don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish, and we don’t know what values should drive our behavior, much less what our goals are.






If you read your history books, you find out that our forefathers like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson were extremely egotistical blowhards as much as they were brilliant men.



Let’s be clear they were EXPERT politicians.




The vision of a new country is what kept these huge personalities focused and working together.


Sound familiar?


Does anyone on your team have an ego?


If nobody knows what the vision, direction, and goals are then they have nothing to serve but themselves.



This is the problem with our country and our government (on both sides of the aisle, mind you) is that we lack vision, therefore we have a self-serving government.


I really don’t think ANYBODY on either side of this election could argue that both candidates and the entirety of our Congress (Senate and the House of Representatives) are in it for themselves.




My point in this is not political. It is that this state of affairs in any organization is predictable because of a lack of vision.


Your organization will suffer EXACTLY like this if you lack vision.



Therefore, if your team is constantly serving themselves, to a large degree, it’s your fault as a leader because they don’t have a higher purpose to serve.


Let that one marinate for a second.


You have to dream up the higher purpose, in detail, and constantly remind the team of that purpose.



90% of being a leader is constantly reminding the team of the clear vision; of the story.


Let me save you the suspense, your story will change often. In fact, it’s a living, breathing, organism that will be refreshed or refurbished frequently.


Kodak had a great vision, a great story, and then they didn’t want to change it so they’re over.



You may have a vision for your success that takes you down a certain road but then it’ll change. If your head is up and you’re looking for every opportunity, it’ll change often.




Let it.


For example, with Bailey James, I knew I was going to reach the majority of her audience (9-14-year-olds) in school.



We wanted to find a way for Bailey to perform in schools.


There’s the vision. There’s the clear goal. It’s one of many.



With the help of my ex, who was a school teacher, we were able to get into one middle school with a 730-person student body.


The kids ate it up! They LOVED her and we used a particular message to frame around the performance that made the show educational.



Step 2 was replicate that show and get Bailey in front of 100 schools. We knew how to “harvest” the audience enough to monetize them, but we needed to be in front of a LOT MORE KIDS.




Well, the educational message we worked so hard to create, film, package, and sell, didn’t work. The educators at every school we contacted (I’m talking THOUSANDS of emails sent) in Alabama, Kentucky, and Missouri didn’t have time to open the email.


They’re too busy.


The interruption wasn’t effective.


Plan “A” was top down; we tried to contact the Principals.





Plan “B” was bottom up. A teacher lined up our first show, let’s get a teacher to love us at these other schools and we’ll get in that way.




Plan “C” was food. We custom ordered a couple boxes of 1.5 oz. Hershey bars with Bailey’s picture on them to entice the Principal’s assistants to just OPEN THE EMAIL.


Plan “C” never got off the ground because plan “D” was better.


Our vision and goal was clear.


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My team never wavered or hiccupped through each fail because the goal was clear; get in the schools.


I’m proud to tell you that Plan “D” was officially announced TODAY. Bailey is the new youth advocate for an amazing teen suicide prevention organization called The Jason Foundation. This organization has affiliations with Rascal Flatts, The Charlie Daniels Band, all the NCAA football coaches, many States Attorneys General, and over 155,000 middle school and high school coaches.


Teen suicide is an issue that is close to my artist’s family.


We get to hopefully help some kids who really need it by sharing important, life-saving information and as the organization’s first female advocate, Bailey James is also a peer.


Bailey will be in some NCAA football broadcast booths telling her story and getting exposure.


I believe we now have a way to get 155,000 educators to read our email. I think we’ll get 100 schools out of that.



See how important vision and goal setting is within your organization?


What’s your vision?


Are you clear about your goal and do you have a current plan to get there?


Is your team clear about the goals and the current plan to get there?


THIS is how you build a winning team.



Make no mistake, you’re going to need a team.


I want you to win.



Once you have your vision, your job isn’t done when you tell the story once.


Part of your job as a leader is to be like a 3rd grade teacher constantly articulating the goals and the values of your cause over and over and over again.


Don’t think of yourself as the President or Chairman.


Think of yourself as the Chief Spiritual Officer.










If you found this article valuable please SHARE it and COMMENT below.









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I want you to climb.

I want you to succeed.

As per your many requests, I am happy to FINALLY announce that I have another way for artists and songwriters to consume the information I share in the form of a new podcast called “The C.L.I.M.B.”.


This new podcast is LIVE and available for download now. (of course, it’s no charge so ENJOY!)


Leverage The Climb FeatureIf you read my blog, you already know I’m a bit of a podcast geek. You’ve heard me quote many of my favorite podcasts including Tim Ferris and Tai Lopez in my weekly articles. I really believe in keeping my finger on the pulse of inspirational, motivational, and educational content for my own soul. Of course, I LOVE sharing this energy with you.


Why “The C.L.I.M.B.”? Well, it’s an acronym which stands for “Creating Leverage In the Music Business.” And that’s our goal – to help indie artists and songwriters like YOU create leverage, which is is defined as “strategic advantage; power to act effectively.”


Yes, you read that right, I said “our”. huh?

The Climb Man vs Row


To help me spread the gospel, so-to-speak, I am thrilled to announce my co-host and  hit songwriter Brent Baxter. Brent has written hits for multi-platinum artists like Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, and more. Brent is the founder of Man vs. Row (I often share his awesome “Wordplay Thursday” interactive blog for my songwriters and you devout readers will recognize a few guest posts on my site) which helps songwriters turn pro by teaching the art, the craft, and the business of songwriting. You can find Brent at ManvsRow.com so reach out and say HELLO!

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Brent and I will take turns guiding each episode. Brent’s episodes will focus on songwriting and music publishing business – areas he knows  all too well from his years in the music business as a songwriter.


My episodes will be aimed at helping indie artists with marketing, understanding the music business, production, creative development, etc. Naturally, I’ll focus more on the artist side of things.


Brent and I aim to bring you a ton of value with each episode, and I hope you’ll check it out. The first 5 episodes are LIVE NOW on iTunes and Stitcher. Please subscribe and download ALL the available episodes today. We want to hit iTunes “New and Noteworthy” so more people will see the podcast and we can help the most people possible so please SHARE it if the content resonates with you.


PLEASE take a second and leave a rating and review if you like what you hear.


Here are the links:



If you don’t have iTunes, you can listen to the podcast on our website TheClimbShow.com


Thanks for taking the time, it really means a lot to me.


I LOVE the way we sign off on each episode, “We’ll see you at the top!”






Johnny D.