How Eurovision can make you a better leader

By Paul Gallagher

or 5 reasons why it’s okay to binge on the annual song fest

If you’re anything like me, mid-May is the time for some serious TV binging—transfixed by a week of outrageous songs, unique costumes, and key changes that almost outnumber wind machines. Forget the projects piling up in your in tray! It’s Eurovision time.

In between viewing and voting for your favourite acts, you may not have noticed some life hacks and principles that will make you a better leader and communicator—just by watching the hilarious, weird and wonderful world that is the annual Eurovision Song Contest.

Well, at least, that’s one reason to tell your CEO why Eurovision is compulsory viewing throughout this week!

Lessons from the song contest

1) Expect the unexpected

If there’s one certainty in Eurovision, it’s that you will be shocked and surprised by something. It can be in the form of a San Marino dentist singing ‘Na Na Na’ like a new Leonard Cohen in a white suit.

Or even your favourite Aussie singer actually getting through to the final! (Go Kate!)

So what’s the EURO-LESSON from this? Work is like that too—days filled with many mundane and expected tasks punctuated by the strange or unusual.

So next time the boss drops a ‘please get this report to me by 4’ email, just mouth the lyrics to Serhat’s song and breathe! You can do it! Na Na Na!

2) Get a second opinion on big things

Eurovision is run by smart people who don’t allow democracy to get in the way of a worthy winner. Well, that’s the theory at least behind the use of national juries to balance the popular votes tallied each year.

EURO-LESSON: In life and work, it’s a good idea to get a specialist to advise on big projects. Just because your team all think a new software product they want is cool doesn’t mean you should buy without advice. For example, ask for someone’s opinion who knows about cars before you actually buy that DMC DeLorean original. It may look cool, but it’s not likely to win you a race at Mount Panorama (or anywhere for that matter!).

3) Communicate your message clearly

Some of the top winners over recent years have had a fairly simple message and communicated it clearly without hype and gimmicks. Take Euphoria for example, from Sweden in 2012. Sure there was a wind machine right from the start, but it was the catchy hook in the lyrics that everyone remembered.

EURO-LESSON: In your organisation, nobody is asking you to hire a wind machine for the launch of a product. But if there’s a message to tell, say it clearly and often enough to be recalled in as little as one word.

4) Assume prejudice rather than be shocked by it

Plenty of countries vote for other nations they feel a kinship with, or have traditional ties that have stood the test of time, war and peace. Neighbours vote for nearby nations. Political blocs tend to stay together. (You can read all about the blocs in an excellent rundown from The Telegraph in 2018.)

EURO-LESSON: Your work will intersect with prejudice too. Don’t be shocked by it. Just move on and make sure what you offer is superior to the opposition.

PS: Sure Russia will get heaps of votes from their friends, but a great song should score the win at the end of the annual final.

5) Money won’t solve all your problems

It’s tempting to take a massive production piece to Eurovision, complete with synchronised animations, multiple wind machines, and add in four key changes.

Recent years have shown too much production does not win votes.

Take Portugal’s winner, Salvador Sobral, who surrendered hype in favour of substance.

EURO-LESSON: At the end of the day, the quality of your product, your message, and your service is what you should be selling; not a key change that will frankly distract your customer or audience from the real message.