I ventured into the Verizon Wireless store in Hoboken – next door to the World Famous Carlo’s Bake Shop – on a recent Saturday morning and handed over my smart phone for a repair. Minutes later, a salesman was pitching me on the value and quality of their wireless, bluetooth speaker systems.
While I was impressed with his knowledge and salesmanship, the conversation quickly turned to the fact that his uncle is a musician and has a band. So I shared that I was once the front man in a rock cover band and, in fact, was performing the national anthem the next morning to open the New Jersey State Triathlon Championships.
Without warning, the salesman started singing The Star Spangled Banner out loud in the crowded store. It seemed a bit odd, and it some ways downright out-of-place. I began to wonder what, if anything, I should do. So I joined in and sang along. He would sing a line and then I would … then him again, and then me again. We belted out the entire national anthem to the bemusement of other customers and staff.
When we ended our spontaneous performance, the salesman – a Filipino – looked me in the eyes and declared, “I love this country!”
So do I. But it would never have occurred to me to impulsively sing the national anthem in a busy store. I walked out with a renewed sense of what it means to be an American, as seen through someone else’s eyes.
More than that, it gave me a different viewpoint on leadership. Each of us has our perspectives, which will likely never change unless we see circumstances through another person’s experience. As leaders, we are expected to come up with new approaches to solving old problems. To do that, we need to look at them differently. Sometimes the most unorthodox things – like singing the national anthem with a salesman in a crowded retail outlet on a Saturday morning – can help.