Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Vision of Country Music from The King of Country Music

Due to my love for country music and given the fact that Nashville, TN is in the Country Music Capitol of the World, I deemed it appropriate to write a blog on the "King of Country Music". George Strait is the epitome of a rustic cowboy turned country superstar, but his down-home roots and southern hospitality have never left him. This “king” does not wear a crown per se, but he does sport a cowboy hat on every occasion. Nonetheless, these are just small pieces to a big puzzle that makes this musician perfect to observe from a leadership standpoint. A troubadour like himself has carried a strong vision throughout his career and has picked up many followers along the way. Never before in the history of music has a musician captivated a crowd with his talents more so than the living legend George Strait. By looking at him and his career through the lens of theorist Marshall Sashkin, many of you may soon realize that he is practically speaking about this cowboy throughout his article called “Visionary Leadership”.

When George first started his professional career in the 1970’s, the country music scene was growing in popularity at a fast rate. Building off the success of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Hank Williams, many honky-tonk bands moved to Tennessee to jump on the fast moving train to stardom. Within this mass of musicians, was a committed 30-something named George Strait and his band named the “Ace in the Hole”. As time played out, many of the musicians were unable to find the stardom they had hoped for and soon had to resort to prototypical jobs outside the music industry. Why did this not happen to George you ask? A quote from Erv Woosley sums it up quite well, “his music is clean-cut and his country-roots are still preferable, even in the new stages of our music”. In this case, George would have exemplified what theorist Marshall Sashkin (1989) believed since he created an ideal image of the way the country music culture should be. As it can be seen, George and his band had a vision of what country music stood for and they stuck with it even though others were changing.

Refusing to abandon the old-time Nashville twang and carrying it on through the 20th century was George’s plan all along. His refusal in this area is how he became the icon and visionary leader he is today. According to the theorist Marshall Sashkin (1989), a leader must also “define a philosophy that succinctly states the vision… that puts the philosophy into practice” (pg.402). The connection here is apparent due to George’s solid stand for pure country music since it has now evolved into more of country-pop and country-rock. The country legend puts his philosophy into practice by simply recording and playing what he believes country music is. If one was to look at his record-setting 57 #1 hits over his career, they would understand that his vision has not kept him from reaching the stardom he once hoped for.

Lastly, Marshall Sashkin states a visionary leader must create his own actions around the vision to support it (1989). If you were to listen to George Strait’s first hit single “Unwound” and compared it to his 57th #1 hit “I Saw God Today”, it would be hard for you to distinguish a difference between each. That is almost 40 years of simple, down-home, country music! The consistency that he has shown has been unparalleled in almost all genres of music. In most cases, musicians must evolve with the time to continue to capture the hearts of their followers, but George has never strayed from his dusty ole path. Rather than pushing us in the direction he wants to go, George “pulls” us along with him (Sashkin, 1989). All in all, I believe that Sashkin (1989) would have given George very high grades in the all three of the major categories he describes in his article “Visionary Leadership”. With that being said, I am thankful that George has been so steadfast with his views because I can not picture country music without him, ever.

Three Questions to Consider
• Would country music be the same without George Strait’s vision?
• Would George Strait have the success he had if he had changed his vision?
• Does a leader have a vision when it is ever-changing or adjusting?