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6 Surprisingly Useful Leadership Lessons from the VMAs

Smart entrepreneurs know that valuable lessons can be picked up in any setting, even a music video awards show.

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I bet some of you are giving me the side-eye for the title of this article. I ain’t mad at you. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I’m not the only one out there "shame watching" mindless TV on occasion. And since I’m a multitasking entrepreneur, I gleaned a few business lessons last weekend when I caught some of the MTV Music Video Awards.

Here are some of the folks who reinforced some valuable business truisms:

Miley Cyrus: Stay on Brand 

Who hasn’t heard about Twerkapalooza by now? Small business owners, it’s okay to push the envelope when it makes sense and is true to your soul. And we all know that innovators are not always well-loved ... until a business idea has already succeeded through the roof, that is! But when you see your consumers actually recoil -- whether through a sudden drop in sales, social media backlash or low attendance at events -- pause long enough to ensure that you’re on mission. If you’ve accidentally veered, humbly get back into alignment.

Robin Thicke: Consider the Company You Keep

Just by performing with Miley Cyrus, Thicke received more than a few raised eyebrows. "Blurred Lines" indeed! The wrong associations can put you in the hot seat when a business partner’s unsavory behavior casts shade on your hard-earned reputation. It’s tough enough to ignore judgment when it's unwarranted, so why keep company that legitimately prompts people to question your decision-making? Entrepreneurs, watch the company you keep.

Justin Timberlake and *NSYNC: Keep Your Fans Happy 

Seems that most people enjoyed JT’s performance but were left wanting more of that *NSYNC reunion. It was sweet to see *NSYNC fans grooving in their seats, which reminded me just how important it is to remember the people who helped you get to where you are! On the flipside, it’s also essential to keep your magnetism and leave your fans wanting more.

Will Smith and Family: Be Authentic

Anyone else catch that hilarious picture of Will Smith’s family seemingly looking appalled at whatever was on stage? Originally, folks thought this was a reaction to Miley Cyrus, but it turns out they were watching Lady Gaga’s performance. Regardless, the public ate the photo up! It underscored that consumers will often shock you by how positively they react to your authentic responses. Ever apologize to an angry customer via social media only to have them become one of your biggest fans? Or shared a horror story in a news article and had an overwhelming number of supportive comments? Being consistently authentic exudes a confidence that can boost your bottom line.

Lil’ Kim: Watch How You Pivot

Ahh, Lil’ Kim. I can’t see her without fondly remembering how much fun we had jamming to her hits during my last years of college. But the "Queen Bee" of today is shockingly different from the rapper I was introduced to all those years ago. Seeing her on the red carpet served as an instant reality check: if you move too far away from your original products, persona or mission, you may be surprised at how deeply fans loved the old version. We all have the right to innovate, grow and change. But when you launch new initiatives, you should also make sure to retain a healthy dose of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Katy Perry: Stay Classy

When the media questioned Katy Perry about her alleged beef with Lady Gaga, she did the classy thing and shared her admiration for Gaga’s work. Even if you actually have tensions with a business contact, rarely does anything good come from sharing that information with others. Beware of anyone who seems overly interested in dishing on issues, and as your mom likely warned you, "If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!"

The VMAs certainly aren’t the Harvard Business Review, but if you’re going to watch mindless TV, you might as well find a way to actually feed your mind. Did the VMAs unexpectedly give you any business insights?

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Aug 30, 2013

SELENA CUFFE is the president & CEO of Heritage Link Brands. Previously, Selena served as a marketer for the Council on International Educational Exchange and the Procter & Gamble Company.
@selenacuffe




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