Refresh. Watch anxiously… refresh. That was me trying to buy tickets when Garth Brooks graced my hometown recently with his live performance. And despite my commitment to attending this life experience, I remained ticketless and desperately disappointed. And I wasn’t alone. My gosh, do people love some Garth. A veteran of nearly 30 years in the industry, he recently earned the 2017 CMA Artist of the Year honor. He’s the #1 selling solo artist in the US, has had 19 #1 hits and has had the largest tour in North American history.
So what is it about this guy that yields such success and influence? And what we can learn from him in leading others?
1) He’s authentic.
We're naturally drawn to people when we trust they have no hidden agenda and Garth seems to exemplify ‘what you see is what you get.’ Worn out jeans and a hooded sweatshirt are his go-to concert clothes. You don’t listen to Garth perform. You experience him. He talks about his life in a way that makes him human and vulnerable. While other megastars are yachting across the world, filtering their flawless skin and vibrant sunsets into social media perfection, Garth embraces a life that is often ordinary, flawed and not Instagrammable. Arena staffer James Rasmussen described his event with Garth like this: “I’ve never seen a performer be more REAL than Garth. He spoke to anyone he came in contact with at the show, from the janitors to the president, asking each person their name and what they did at the arena."
2) He’s a great listener.
Oprah once said “There’s a common denominator in our human experience… Everybody wants to know: Did you hear me and did what I say matter?” We gravitate toward people who are good at this and Garth is a natural. He makes time for people and hangs onto the words of those around him. Radio DJ Matt Sharp describes his meet and greet with Garth as “completely different in an incredible way that I will hold onto and cherish for the rest of my life… I thought, Ok, I know the routine, lets get up, stand in line, snap a quick picture and be on our way. That’s not what happened at all. Garth and Trisha came over to us and we all introduced ourselves to each other. We all sat back down and just started talking…”
3) He gives others credit.
Making others feel valued is a gift. Genuine praise increases rapport, trust and motivation. One thing you’ll notice in nearly every interview with Garth is the way he elevates those around him. If you tune into the Garth Channel on SiriusXM, not only will you hear a variety of music, from Merle Haggard to Lady Gaga, but the real gem is Garth’s commentary between the songs. He talks about the artists and influences that have shaped his love for music and it’s pure poetry. His signature voice raves about the talents and contributions of nearly every name in the business. Regardless of the platform, Garth makes it a habit to spend his time in the spotlight complimenting everyone else.
4) He exudes passion.
The Law of Conservation of Energy states that "energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another." Likewise, human emotion flows from person to person. Positive energy is like a beacon, it draws you in and you want to be a part of it. Garth is a fountain. He's unapologetic about his need to feel openly. You can’t watch an interview or performance from Garth Brooks and not notice that he laughs in a big way, his smile lights up his entire face and his eyes sparkle with untold stories. It's not unusual for his voice to tremble with emotion as he sings about things that move him.
5) He cares about people.
Not just his people. All people. He raves about his love for his wife and his joy at being a father. But he also takes every opportunity to help people he doesn’t know: from victims of major natural disasters to strangers in packed concert venues. Entertainment writer John Wooley describes him, “He is unfailingly nice at every encounter. People see him and Trish out at local restaurants frequently, and while I’m sure he’s besieged all the time, he’s always as genuine as can be.”
Influence is nebulous thing. It's indistinct and difficult to measure, but we seem to understand intuitively who has it. Rooted in building emotional connections with people, Garth Brooks has it. When asked if Garth Brooks is really as nice as he seems, long time song writer Larry Bastian had this to say, “No. He’s a helluva lot nicer... he connects with everyone and always leads with his heart.”
And right there, when you strip away the international tours and thousands of adoring fans, you're left with something attainable for any of us: just a guy in Carharts leading with his heart.