While watching the biographical film, Bohemian Rhapsody, the way that Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, engaged the crowd captured my attention and pulled me even deeper into his stage theatrics. In 1977, the group introduced the ‘stomp-stomp-clap-pause’ beat, now synonymous with their famous song, We Will Rock You.
The beat came about during the band’s A Day at the Races tour. One evening, Queen went offstage after wrapping up the concert and, instead of clapping, the audience sang You’ll Never Walk Alone back to the band. Taken aback by the crowd’s response, the group chose to return to the stage and proceeded to redefine the entertainer-audience interaction, with songs like Radio Ga Ga, Ay-Ho, and of course, We Will Rock You — the anthem that defined my adolescence.
As the tempo of the concert mellowed, the audience pulled lighters from their pockets and began to wave them in the air. Even now, the flickering tribute to musicians on stage takes me back to all the moments when I have stood among thousands of people, doing the same.
These days, the flickering lighter has been replaced with cell phones held up by outstretched arms, but the act remains the same and serves as a reminder that every concert-goer is a spectator. Those in the audience don’t make the music, they just listen.
The same goes for devoted sports fans who show up to stadiums week-after-week to watch their favourite teams — they are there to watch and support, but never to play.
Be what you what you want to see
Nasa astronaut Jim Lovell once aptly said, “There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen and there are people who wonder what happened.”
In conclusion, he stressed that, “To be successful, we have to be people who make things happen.”
Lovell is known for being the commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, which suffered a critical failure en route to the Moon, but was brought back safely to Earth through the efforts of the crew and mission control. In addition to being part of that crew, he was the command module pilot of Apollo 8, the first Apollo mission to enter lunar orbit.
He is one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon and the first of only three astronauts to fly there twice. Adding to his accolades, he is the only person to have flown to the Moon twice without making a landing and was the first astronaut to fly in space four times.
In the 1970s, millions of people sat glued to their TVs watching Lovell and a small group of others fly to the Moon. As they looked on in awe, they were spectators to history, and few people before or since have truly done something to stamp their mark on the world’s collective memory.
Of course, not everyone can fly to the Moon or command a stage like Freddy Mercury, but even within our own everyday worlds, many of us fail to make things happen. Unfortunately, corporate hallways are filled with spectators — employees and even managers who show up each morning and sit back and watch while others do the real work.
With the eyes fixated on social media posts and minds engaged in unnecessary tasks, many are later surprised to learn of their team’s successes, but are happy to share in the victory or take the credit nonetheless.
Since time immemorial, excuses have kept many people off the stage due to fears and other self-limiting beliefs. Others simply lack the work ethic. But, like Mercury, there are people out there who have found the courage to progress from spectator to entertainer, even when the odds are stacked against them.
Whether stage performer or corporate executive, self-belief is a choice. If you are willing to put in the effort, you can be the person who makes things happen. The thing is, you have to want to do it, more than you want to watch.
Tommy Weir is CEO of EMLC Leadership Ai Lab and author of ‘Leadership Dubai Style’. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.