Ringo Starr, the legendary Beatles drummer, is often overlooked as a musical genius. Despite being dismissed by many as the “silly Beatle” and a “so-so drummer”, Ringo’s influence on the Beatles’ sound is undeniable. His drumming was integral to the music of the Beatles, providing the rhythm and structure that allowed the band to create their iconic songs. Ringo’s ability to listen intently and play with high impact is a skill that can be applied to many aspects of life, including running a successful startup.
Founders and CEOs of tech companies have a responsibility to get results, build products, serve customers, and succeed in the market. Similarly, a great drummer is responsible for serving the song and the band, and providing the spine and structure of a group. This is referred to as being in the “pocket”, and drummers who do this are known as pocket drummers. Like pocket drummers, successful startup founders must have the ability to listen intently and be tuned in for high impact.
Leadership is another important aspect of startup success. Just like drummers need to mark section changes and set the pace and cadence of the team’s work, founders need to set standards, provide guidance, and create the culture and feel of an organization. Leaders should be aware of when to push and back off, and when to emphasize vital moments like product launches or customer go-lives. Weak leaders can be unsettling for teams, whereas pocket leaders are able to drive performance.
In addition to setting standards and providing guidance, successful startup founders need to have a sense of situational awareness. Like drummers who need to call an audible when the band goes off track, leaders must be able to recognize changes or broken situations and act quickly to pull everyone in a new direction. Finally, startups need more than just work – they need intensity and sacrifice, which is why pocket leaders are essential for cultivating a feeling within their teams that their work has meaning.
Ringo Starr demonstrates that great leadership starts with listening intently and tuning in for high impact. By following his example, startup CEOs can learn how to be pocket leaders who are able to set standards, provide guidance, recognize changes or broken situations, and cultivate a feeling of meaning within their teams.