So a few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend a Tom Petty Tribute Concert at Skipper’s Smokehouse (If you have never been, you must go to Skipper’s, nothing else like it on the planet). I went with one of my very best friends from high school, back in the day, we were fans of Tom and his rebel band the Heart Breakers and it was nostalgic to attend this event together.
There were bands playing tribute songs beginning at 4 p.m. and going nonstop until past 10 p.m. It was fun to see so many band members of a wide range of ages and genre playing Tom’s songs with such verve… Of course none could outperform Mr. Petty himself, but they honored him well.
One of the band leaders was very young, most likely in his mid twenties. He was good looking, like a younger version of Johnny Depp, and he was dressed brilliantly and had amazing energy and passion. I was impressed, and yet as he sang, I felt as though the performance was just that, a performance. I am sure that this young man has a great future ahead of him, and he definitely has the “It” factor that seems so important in Hollywood and/or Nashville.
There was a different band however, that truly caught my eye. As they came out to set up, the Lead singer and guitar player stepped on stage, barefoot and in a white t-shirt and worn out old jeans. He was older, probably my age, which is to say that he most likely was playing in a band about the time my friend and i were in high school or college.
My girlfriend said, “He looks like Luke Perry.” and my reply was “Yeah, Luke Perry after many rough years on the road.” You see this man was handsome, but he also bore the look of someone who had been through a few more life experiences than the Johnny Depp lookalike.
When the band (Sonic Stew) began to play, it sounded good, but something was off. For a brief bit of time, they seemed to struggle with coming together with the right sound. That is when I saw something amazing happen. This Barefoot Lead Singer, went over to the Base Player and he began to listen to the cords and essentially lead him into an incredible synchrony. What started out as a sound that was flat and off, turned into one of the best combinations and performances of the evening.
This Barefoot Leader, remained calm, never lost focus, kept smiling throughout and worked with the band to turn the performance into a memorable tribute. At one point he looked my way, and I saw in his eyes calm confidence and sheer joy. I know that Tom P. was honored that evening, and I left that concert impressed with the reminder that First Impressions are important, but be very careful not to put all of your expectations and assumptions in them. You might just miss the best performance of the night….
I do not know the name of the Barefoot, Bold and Brilliant Leader of Sonic Stew, but that evening was a fun hands on expression of Leadership at it’s Best. Sadly, I do not actually see much of that from Leaders in the corporate setting. Many talk a good talk, dress brilliantly and have energy and passion, but the confident focus and genuine passion and leading by example such as the Barefoot Leader exhibited , is far and few between.
Tom Petty wrote and performed many brilliant songs, but the one that comes to mind as I ponder this recent tribute event is “Saving Grace”. The lyrics are so solid and no doubt Mr. Petty was searching as we all are. There was another Barefoot/Sandaled Leader many years ago, and without Jesus, there would be no soul searching Saving Grace.
“For it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-10