Leadership Lessons from Ed Sheeran on the Howard Stern show

Leadership Lessons from Ed Sheeran on the Howard Stern show

On days like these, I miss having an hour long commute and being able to listen to my favourite radio show, the Howard Stern show. Today, Howard was interviewing Ed Sheeran, the English singer-songwriter who sings hits like “SING”, “Lego House” and “The A Team”. I’m sure the entire interview was fabulous (and hopefully I’ll catch it on the replay later this week), but I only caught 10 minutes of it while I was doing some errands. In that 10 minutes, Ed was sharing some stories of how his career started, and I caught some great leadership lessons from them. Here are three quick lessons from Ed Sheeran:

Leadership Lesson: Every impression you make matters.

Ed_Sheeran_4,_2013 (1)Ed told the story of his second show in London, for which there were only two people in the audience – and one of them was the other performer. While singing his acoustic tunes on stage, Ed was looking around, thinking about how he was only singing to 2 people, but he kept on. After the show, the second audience member approached him and he found out that he worked for a record company. Although nothing came of that particular performance, from that moment on, Ed used that experience as a reminder to give his all in every performance.

The Business Context:

You are always making an impression on someone, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant the audience may be. Make sure every report you turn in, every presentation you make, and every interaction you have with others portrays you the way you want to be seen. Never underestimate the power that your audience could have.

Leadership Lesson: Have the courage to stand out.

Ed Sheeran told a story about his first trip to perform in Los Angeles. He was performing acoustic music at poetry and hip hop sessions, rather than his usual acoustic shows. He explained that this was when he really saw his career start to take off, and described how, when performing with other acoustic performers, he was just one of many, but suddenly, when he performed alongside poetry readings and hip hop and rap performances, his acoustic presentation stood out and people realized how talented he was.

The Business Context:

Courage is a must in business. The courage to provide alternate viewpoints, or to point out possible opportunities and risks in decisions that are made can help to drive innovation in an organization. When you’re sitting in a meeting with an idea that you’re not sure about sharing, don’t be afraid to speak up, even if it’s a different viewpoint from the ones around the table. For that matter, don’t be afraid to attend a meeting or event where you may be out of your comfort zone – you’ll learn and have the opportunity to provide unique perspective. Demonstrate the courage to be authentically you in business interactions.

Leadership Lesson: It’s about others.

Sheeran shared the story of opening for Taylor Swift, and when Howard Stern asked him how that worked, with his more soulful, acoustic music and her high energy, young audience, Sheeran shared his thought that this was Taylor’s show. He explained that as an opener, you’re there to get the show started, to rev up the crowd, and his more quiet, soul-searching tunes wouldn’t fit. He was there to help Taylor Swift shine, and he flexed his music to fit the needs of the show.

The Business Context:

A majority of your job as a leader of people is to develop your team. That means providing them exposure to projects, people and opportunities rather than keeping all the good stuff for yourself. It means giving accolades to those who deserve it. Sometimes it means taking a back seat so that your team can shine and show their strength.

The most important Leadership Lesson: Leadership isn’t about a title.

In fact, we believe that everyone, no matter the level or title, can be a leader. It’s up to you to take opportunities when they’re presented and to act like the leader you aspire to be. These lessons work for everyone. The way an organization structures work and the amount of trust they provide people will also help to create leaders at all levels. Check out our Workplace Reinvention Handbook – especially the chapter on Individual Leadership – for tips, examples and more!

Bonus – Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” Video:

I love the chill beat and awesome pop n lock dancing in this video – Happy Leading!


  1. Janet Gay
    September 28, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Excellent lessons to share ! The bonus was awesome too !

    Reply »
    • Pam (Author)
      October 1, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      Glad you liked it Janet!

      Reply »

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