Prince's Unique Brand of Trustworthy Leadership

Prince kept digging deep, pushing boundaries and creating music and art that inspired millions.

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By Michelle Reina, PhD

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"Intense. Exhausting. Satisfying." In all the words used in recent days to describe Prince's live performances, these three by NPR's rock critic Ken Tucker caught my attention.

Let me ask you a question. Could you use these three words to describe your "live" performance…not just at work, but in life?

Be honest with yourself. If you're like most leaders I serve, you've nailed the first two. You're intensely driven. You often work yourself to exhaustion. Yet, on a daily basis, you still struggle to give and receive true satisfaction. Why? In my experience, it's because you've lost sight of a non-negotiable to achieving satisfaction: Your ability to tune into and trust your intuition.

"Prince was the type of artist…he pretty much set the criteria for what he wanted," said Joseph Ruffalo, Prince's former manager, on CNN. "He would listen. But the bottom line was, he would think about how he wanted his life, how he wanted his development, and then he would pretty much come up with what he wanted to do."

Related: Remembering Prince: What The Purple One Can Teach You About Creativity

What did Prince gain from following his intuition?

  • Seven Grammys, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.
  • Over 100 million records sold worldwide.
  • Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- the first year he was eligible.
  • A coveted spot in Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
  • The loyalty of millions who mourn his passing.

Would you agree trusting his intuition served Prince well? I'd imagine so

Consider, what would happen if you listened to your inner voice more often? What could that do for you?

I've found that leaders who learn to trust and leverage their intuition change the game. They make stronger decisions. They truly connect with other people and build deeper, more supportive relationships. They regain their joy and satisfaction...not just as professionals, but as people.

How can a quiet little voice in your head do all of that?

It all comes down to trust. Specifically, strengthening trust in your unique offering to the world and in your innate ability to deliver it.

Related: Sign O' the Times: Everything That Went Purple For Prince

Let's revisit Prince.

Prince's live shows were famously long. They'd last for hours. Yet, it wasn't unusual for him to "unwind" afterwards by giving another show, this time to a smaller, more intimate crowd.

Beginning at 3 or 4 a.m., he'd cut loose and really play. He'd experiment. He'd weave together genre-bending rhythms and raw, unprintable lyrics. He'd wring out his creativity to rapt fans for another few hours before calling it a night.

Why did Prince do this? Clearly, he wasn't following "business as usual" rock star protocol. Other musicians of his tenure would be relaxing in tour busses or hotels. Saving their voices and energy for the next show. They'd probably say Prince was crazy for giving so much of himself away. He'd already given his fans the value they'd paid for with his first performance. Why give them more, for free?

But, Prince wasn't guided by his peers or by industry norms. He trusted his intuition -- his inner sense of what was needed to take his craft to the next level. The result? Inspired by his open-hearted giving, his fans trusted his creative integrity and went to the next level with him, again and again.

Ask yourself, how would your approach to life change if you trusted yourself enough to give what it is you truly have to offer?

If you're like most leaders, your deepest motivation isn't wealth or fame. While you may enjoy the tangible rewards of your job, what really gets you going are the intangibles.



Giving to the right people, at the right time, to make a real difference.

Are you willing to consider that half your battle to regain satisfaction in your life is trusting your inner voice when it tells you to give, give, give?

Related: The Customer Isn't Always Right: Watch Prince Kick Kim Kardashian off his Stage

The other half of your battle?

Trusting your ability to overcome disappointment when people simply aren't ready to recognize what you have to offer.

Prince's career spanned 40 years. In that time, he reinvented himself constantly. Not every version resonated with people. Some of his creative decisions were even ridiculed. His movie Graffiti Bridge? It was a complete flop. A critical failure. It was nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Actor (Prince), Worst Director, (Prince) and Worst Screenplay (written by Prince).

Yet, for Prince, Graffiti Bridge was "one of the purest and most spiritually uplifting things" he'd ever done.

He didn't doubt the appropriateness of his choice. He believed that while people may not have been "ready" -- open or able to receive the message at that time -- perhaps in the future they could benefit.

He didn't allow failure to lead to doubt and questioning of his value or his inner compass. He kept digging deep, pushing boundaries and creating. When he passed, he'd produced enough unpublished material to release an album a year, every year, for a century.

Ask yourself, what's holding you back from unleashing that intense level of self-trust?

What steps can you take to regain trust in your intuition and regain satisfaction in your life?

Michelle Reina, PhD

Co-founder of Reina, A Trust Building® Consultancy

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