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Rock and roll leadership

By the late 1970s, Journey was pretty much finished. The band had recorded three albums, all of which had been critical successes but market failures. They had managed to sell several hundred thousand albums cumulatively, but in the recording industry at that time, selling one- or two-hundred thousand units per album was pretty much like selling none at all.

Rock and Roll Leadership article by funny speaker Charles MarshallAt the core of the group were guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Greg Rolie. Neal had started his musical career at a young age, joining the legendary group Santana at only fifteen-years old. Years later, after leaving Santana, Neal partnered with his former Santana band member, Greg, to create their dream band. In its early stages, Journey was still finding its way, creating songs that featured expert musicianship rather than the song craft for which the band would later be known. It seemed the group had most of what they needed for success but, for some reason, fell just short of their potential. They were missing some key ingredient.

Meanwhile, in another part of California, a young man named Steve Perry had given up on his dream to be a singer. Steve had been a member of a promising new band named Alien Project, but on the eve of signing a recording contract, his band’s bass player was killed in a car wreck. Steve was devastated and decided to quit the music business. He moved back home to work with his stepfather repairing turkey coops to pay back the debts he accrued recording his demo tapes.

But then Steve got a phone call from Herbie Herbert, the manager of a struggling band named Journey. Herbie convinced Steve to give a career in music one more shot by trying out as the lead singer for Journey.

Neal and Greg met with Steve one afternoon to get a feel for his style and find out what he had to offer. Afterward, Neal told Herbie that essentially he just wasn’t feeling it–that he and Greg didn’t want Steve to join the band. They wanted a screamer, not a crooner. Herbie, however, had another opinion on the matter. He told Neal that it had already happened and that Steve was now in the band. Done deal. Matter closed.

Fast-forward two or three decades, and Journey has a place with the top-selling bands of all time. Their music is played regularly on radio stations all around the world, and their albums continue to sell at a healthy pace. But none of it would have happened without the visionary leadership of their manager, Herbie Herbert.

The way I see it, Herbie did several things right in making the tough decision to bring Steve into the group.

1] He had a vision. Herbie wanted to create one of the best rock and roll groups in the world and felt that he could assemble the talent to make it happen. No business will move forward unless its leadership has a vision of what that business can become.

2] He communicated his vision. Herbie wasn’t shy about his aspirations for his group. He constantly communicated his passion for the band and his belief in what it could become. Any leader who desires to transition his group from mediocrity to greatness needs to constantly communicate his vision of that possibility to his team. Without that communication, the team continues to accept what is right in front of them as their standard rather than the possibility of what lies over the horizon.

3] He stood by his vision. He made tough decisions to support that vision and then made those decisions work. Being visionary is never easy. If your vision was obvious to everyone around you, then it wouldn’t be a vision; it would be the norm. Standing by your vision when no one else gets it is one of the things that separates true leadership from aspiring leadership.

When your vision dies, when nobody else sees your potential or the potential of your vision, how do you react? Do you give up and go build turkey coops with Dad, or do you continue with your vision despite the odds and opposition?

Great leadership always begins with great vision. Give careful consideration to your vision for your career, community, and business, and be sure to guard it as one of your most precious possessions that you take with you on your leadership journey.

© 2024 Charles Marshall. Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his Web site or contact him via e-mail at


2 Responses to Rock and roll leadership

  1. Faith July 10, 2024 at 12:44 AM #

    Wow! Had no idea that was the story behind Journey and Steve Perry!

    It seems that Herbie also had the skill of holding ground. Even when others complained or objected, he pushed forward. He wasn’t a people-pleaser.

    • Charles Marshall July 10, 2024 at 12:28 PM #

      Yes, Journey was the band that almost never took off! And you’re right about Herbie standing his ground. That takes some strength of will and probably a pretty good understanding of one’s authority, as well.

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