What Hamilton Teaches About Leadership

What Hamilton Teaches About Leadership

Revolution can happen when you least expect it, especially in the workplace.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda performed the first song from his Alexander Hamilton concept album, during a White House event in 2009, the rendition was inevitably met with a standing ovation. There were also reactions throughout the performance that seem outright sacrilegious as we look back some seven years; laughter.

Not the sort of laughter that belongs after a punchline, but the polite laughter of a crowd who didn’t seem to be taking the performance seriously. Not that I’m here to disparage the President of the United States or his guests that evening, but that crowd did not seem to realize that a revolution was coming. How could they? Who would rap about Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton? How could one of our Founding Fathers “embody hip-hop?” After all, hip-hop didn’t fit the time of our Founding Fathers, at all.

Further, that a musician would turn himself into a scholar to compose an album about American history in what was becoming the parlance of modern day protest, just could not hit home. Yet.

The comparison between that 2009 performance to the Broadway reception of Hamilton is worth keeping in mind the next time a member of your team approaches you with a new idea. There are hundreds of things about even the best workplaces and teams that can improve. Sometimes all it takes is hard work from a top performer to turn what you thought was great into something even greater. Remember, theatrical history was great before Hamilton. Now, it’s greater.

Not every idea will pan out. Just like not every hip hop song turns into the most culturally relevant history lesson of our time. Most of both of these things will fall by the wayside, especially when we’re talking about an organization’s constant strive for growth and improvement. And that’s okay. The trick is to never assume new ideas will fail.

Foster a team who knows you’re ready for ideas, even if you don’t understand every one right away. Laugh sometimes, be challenging, and transform your top performers into stars. That’s how great turns into greater.

And don’t forget the standing ovation.