21st Century Leadership: Jay-Z

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21st Century Leadership: Jay-Z


The contemporary highly digitalized and entertainment-oriented world has seen conventional leadership styles being transformed and adjusted by leaders of the new generation that often move away from being merely organizational CEOs and executive directors to a mixture of various traits. However, this combination of skills and competences is what makes new leaders like Jay-Z aka Shawn Carter successful and trend-setting in such a highly competitive industry as entertainment and music recording. Besides, such new leaders who usually combine features of different leadership styles also venture outside the industry that they have initially entered, investing into new sectors where they either prosper or fail based on their leadership qualities and chosen strategies. Shawn Carter is a remarkable and outstanding entertainment mogul and rap singer who is currently worth hundreds of millions and can serve as a bright example of the twenty-first century leadership style.

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Overall Leadership Style

Jay-Z is an artistic pseudonym of Shawn Carter who has acquired worldwide fame for his music, as well as entrepreneurial projects, charity foundation’s activity, and social presence alongside with his wife Beyoncé. His success story is outstanding and has amazed and inspired thousands of young men and women from poor families, marginalized and deprived of opportunities for education and success in life. It is because of “his extraordinary tale – rising from a less-than-ideal childhood to great success,” and today “Shawn Corey Carter epitomizes the essence of the American entrepreneurial spirit” (Forbes, 2012). However, his tale also proves that in order to achieve success, a person has to possess motivation and inherent leadership skills to build the future career.

In fact, the leadership style of the twenty-first century is rather a complicated phenomenon that has to constantly adapt to the ever-changing circumstances and market shifts. The latter include globalization, cultural diversity, rising competition, potential financial difficulties and crises, changing social moods, requirement for sustainability and social corporate responsibility, role and impacts of the social media and the Internet, and many other factors that may have either a detrimental or beneficial influence on some entity. This list of factors becomes even longer for the entertainment industry as a combination of gamble, shrewd governance skills, innovation drive, and personal leadership qualities. An analysis of Jay-Z’s activities as a CEO shows that he has “an increased understanding of the importance of innovation and creativity” and knows how to use them to gain revenues and success (Patterson, n.d.). However, it is impossible to determine a particular style of Jay-Z, as he is highly flexible. He acknowledges this fluidity in terms of the leadership style as his major strength, “Be fluid. Treat each project differently. Be water, man. The best style is no style. Because styles can be figured out. And when you have no style they can’t figure you out” (Ramsay, 2008). He acquired his basic entrepreneurial skills when he was involved in drug dealing during his teenage years and did not attend college at all. However, he has managed to become a millionaire thanks to his unique personality traits typical of most entrepreneurial visionaries. According to his biography Decoded, he is such a great leader due to passion, “the knack for imagining what doesn’t exist”, “iron-willed self-discipline”, immense desire to control everything and in particular his destiny, “risk-taking by breaking the bounds of the conventional way of doing things”, and “the ability to bounce back from setbacks” (Forbes, 2012).

By the present moment, Jay-Z is worth about $500 million, has won nineteen Grammy awards, has had more top-chart albums than perhaps any other solo artists, holds stakes in numerous and versatile businesses. The latter include his well-known Roc Nation, Brooklyn Nets, Translation advertising company, 40/40 Club chain, as well as partnerships with Samsung, HP, Microsoft, Reebok, Budweiser, and other large international companies (Borucka, 2013). In addition, he has launched Roc Nation Sports with a view to become an agent for professional athletes and Three Six Zero Entertainment that will represent directors, actors, and writers in the film and television industries (Gruttadaro, 2015). Besides, Jay-Z has become an initiator and leader of Tidal, a streaming service that intends to change the rules of the game and provide customers with high quality services at a fixed cost, ensuring that artists get sufficient remuneration for their work (McDonald, 2015). It seems that any activity or venture that Jay-Z launches or participates in is sure to become successful and profitable. Therefore, it is reasonable that this entertainment mogul and business leader often empathizes that he is not merely a businessman, boldly claiming “I’m a business, man” (Leonard, 2015). Thus, his overall leadership style is based on an innovative vision, search for interesting ideas, creation of services, and their subsequent popularization among the public through his personal fame and vast social connections, harsh control over all aspects of his businesses, openness for fresh ideas, and SCR.

Organizational Structure and Culture of the Company Run by Jay-Z

Currently, one of the most significant achievements of Jay-Z as an organizational leader is his company Roc Nation founded in 2008 that posits itself as “a full-service entertainment company, inclusive of artist, songwriter, producer and engineer management; music publishing; touring & merchandising; film & television; new business ventures; and a music label” (Roc Nation, 2015). The company cooperates with many famous artists and producers like Rihanna, Rita Ora, Shakira, Timbaland, Calvin Harris, J. Cole, and many others, the number of which is constantly growing (Roc Nation, 2015). The company’s ability to attract diverse talents and manage their careers successfully proves that it has chosen the right approaches to human capital management by emphasizing individuals’ strengths. Jay-Z has always insisted that it is necessary to help employees realize their dreams since money and promotions are worthless if the person is not happy with the job and fails to realize the full potential (Ross, 2012). However, the organizational culture is also based on control over all operations without stifling creativity.

The success of Roc Nation is largely based on the iconic personality of its founder, who lures artists to the company’s management division, for instance, welcoming Touche Amore as one of the recent additions (Fleisher, 2015). Although Jay-Z is often said to be a demanding leader, he is also generous to his employees and rewards their hard work. For instance, each of his employees, ranging from low-level ones to top executives, received annual bonuses in the amount of $50,000 in addition to corporate parties to celebrate holidays and achievements (Essex, 2013). The organizational culture is also based on professionalism and immaculate professional ethics, which is praised by people, with whom Jay-Z has ever collaborated (Siegel, 2013). At the same time, there is no particular grandeur in the company since simplicity is valued thanks to the leader’s example as Carter can easily talk with fans without making them feel like they are conversing with a super star. However, it does not mean that respect is not essential in the company, including the one to each other and the leader who has zero tolerance for a disrespectful behavior (Scheidies, 2013). The corporate culture of Roc Nation is aimed at fostering creativity and ensuring success of all endeavors by empowering employees and assisting them in realizing their dreams while not losing control and view of prioritized goals set by the leadership.

Effectiveness of Jay-Z’s Performance as a Leader

Based on the amounts of profits that all entrepreneurial endeavors by Jay-Z bring, it can be definitely concluded that his performance is quite effective. It is also evident that his multi-tasking, risk-taking, and innovation skills are superb since there has hardly been any corporate activity that he failed. The key to his effective performance lies in his personal ideology of a leader, following which he says, “Live your brand” (Ross, 2012). No matter what he has attempted to achieve in life, he has always followed this motto, being fully dedicated to the task at hand. When he was appointed a CEO of Universal’s branch several years ago, people did not expect him to appear in his office at all, but he was always there, working on each and every deal and resolving all upcoming issues until his resignation (Patterson, n.d.). His professional portfolio is multifaceted, including technologies, software, movie production, real estate, singing, theater, nightclubs, sports clubs, and fashion. Throughout his successful career, he has built a vast social network, boasting of meetings with the president and other powerful people of the modern times, but remaining always true to himself and never losing sight of his goals (Rice, 2013). Moreover, his effectiveness as a leader is ensured by his ability to spot and exploit promising initiatives, meet the right people at the right time, convince them to do what he wants, and make new rules for any sphere that he is venturing into without apologizing for any failures that it may cause for the stakeholders involved. In terms of his effectiveness as a leader of Roc Nation, he relies on the empowerment and loyalty of his employees and artists with whom the company cooperates. Loyalty may be deemed the cornerstone of many of his dealings like the Tidal streaming service that he seems to hope to promote and popularize thanks to support from such stars and his friends as Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Rihanna, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, and some other famous performers (Leonard, 2015).

The Best Practices of Jay-Z

Jay-Z’s leadership style offers many valuable lessons and best practices that can and should be adopted by any leader or entrepreneur, who strives to be successful in the contemporary highly competitive world. Nonetheless, this section will provide only a brief overview of the three best practices followed by Jay-Z. The first one encourages people to be authentic and live their brand. Jay-Z once said that, “You can’t face whatever the current trend is if it’s not you, because it might work for a second, but it’s a house of sand” (Ross, 2012). He has never been involved into a business endeavor that he does not believe in and has always remained true to himself, without making any significant distinction between himself as Jay-Z and himself as Shawn Carter. This lesson is valuable for everyone since it emphasizes the importance of being genuinely interested in what one is doing and relying on personal traits and skills rather than pretending to be someone else.

The second best practice concerns remaining always goal-oriented and a big dreamer. According to Jay-Z, “You can want success all you want, but to get it, you can’t falter. You can’t slip. You can’t sleep. One eye open, for real, and forever” (Scheidies, 2013). A leader has to know how to set clear goals, both short-term and long-term. They have to be attainable, but large-scale and worth dreaming about, since it will ensure that one has inspiration, drive, and motivation to pursue them relentlessly and without fear for setbacks and minor failures.

Finally, the third practice that rules Jay-Z during his entire life is his hustling motto, according to which, “Without the work, the magic won’t come” (Scheidies, 2013). He has worked hard to achieve success and emphasizes that people cannot realize their dreams if they do nothing. Furthermore, others tend to help only those individuals who help themselves, since otherwise they are not worth the efforts, time, and money. Thus, hustling is a key to success in the Jay-Z’s opinion. He often alludes to himself as a great hustler who is canny enough to make the best out of life circumstances, but who is still a decent person trying to help others, for instance, underprivileged children, through his philanthropic activities.

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Based on the discussion above, it becomes evident that Jay-Z aka Shawn Carter is an outstanding leader of the twenty-first century who has managed to achieve impressive success despite all difficulties and hardships. He is one of the rare leaders who can inspire thousands, if not millions of people worldwide through his personal example and life story. At the same time, he remains a rather simple and sincere man, who merely has well-developed leadership skills and entrepreneurial competences. This person and his actions are sometimes considered to be controversial, while the success of his new endeavors is doubted by skeptics. However, it should be remembered that he has risen from rags to riches within a few years thanks to his talent and leadership qualities and remains on top of all industries he has ever ventured into without allowing minor failures to hold him back.