Singer, songwriter, producer, dancer, and innovator, Michael Jackson became a pop cultural icon, and maintained the “King of Pop” title throughout and beyond his life. Many credit him with revolutionizing the music video, combining drama and dance to create a theater experience. Through his entertainment and the way he lived, Michael Jackson spread the message of peace of love, and taught the world many lessons applicable to our personal lives and careers.
Start with yourself
Man in the Mirror is introspective, and seems to tell of a personal experience Michael had, and encourages us to start with ourselves. It’s easy to look at the world and point out the injustices and deficiencies, but more challenging to sit down, soul search, and find ways to be better versions of ourselves.
Build community and collaborate
He took his social responsibility seriously, and used his platform to share messages of positivity and hope. Heal the World and We Are the World showed his willingness, even as a powerhouse in his own right – to work as a part of a team, and bring others together to envision and work toward a better world. The popularity of these songs and their use – from social campaigns to graduation ceremonies – prove the power of collaboration, and what we can achieve by pooling our resources and talent.
Build your brand
To be the king or queen of anything, you need a strong brand. Michael Jackson had a distinct style, signature moves, and an unchanging demeanor. His tricks were so unique to him that he could do them over and over again, and elicit the same response. Even performed by others, they were – and still are – easily and quickly recognized as his own. This allowed him to stand on a stage and make a 90 degree turn of the head in exchange for the cheers a last second 3-pointer from half court to tie the game would get in any basketball stadium. When your brand is strong, it becomes synonymous with you and cannot be stolen.
Perfection has its place
There are a variety of opinions on perfection. Is it realistic? Is it a fair bar? Michael Jackson always aimed for perfection, both from himself and from his team. Rather than burdening others with abstract ideas of perfection, he participated in every aspect of his performance and career, from choreography to lighting. Video footage of his rehearsals reveal his involvement in every area of production. He was determined to deliver beyond anyone’s expectation.
“Seeing the show does the talking. The show speaks for itself.”
Even in leadership, be gentle
Though his goals were high, he valued people. He engaged his team with kindness. In This Is It, he gave instructions during rehearsal without aggression and punctuated by “with love.” He showed understanding to fan who followed him, almost to the point of torment. He recognized that some things – including paparazzi – came along with his success, and did his best to preserve himself without harming anyone in the process.
Bring passion, and share it
Michael Jackson’s passion was evident in everything he did. His music videos show his creativity and dedication, and his live performances shared his energy with audiences. It was clear that he wasn’t following choreography or going through the motions. He felt the music, and it literally moved him. The energy he brought with him was infectious, and shows that when you believe and invest in something enough, sharing it the world means sharing that passion, using one candle to light many more.
Timing is everything
From record releases and tour dates to the turn of his head in sync with the clash of symbols, he understood the importance of timing. In This Is It, someone is heard off stage telling Michael that he missed a cue and should be moving on to the next step, but Michael tells him it’s not time yet. “We’re sizzling,” Michael said. He knew that, at that point in the show, he would take a moment. He had learned from decades of performing, and didn’t allow convention or scripts or stand in the way of what he knew to be right for him and his audience, even before they were in the room.
Michael Jackson knew his audience, but more importantly, he knew himself. He had a head start, but he found what he loved and was good at, and used it as a vehicle for sharing his passion – peace and love. He used his music to wake the social consciousness of his fans. Nothing he did was by chance, but was well-crafted and executed. He started with himself, built a team, treated them with kindness, and developed the brand that powered his message, and it lives on in his music and our memory of him.