todd clark

5 Leadership Lessons From Last Nights U2 Concert

IMG_7796Last night I took my 14-year-old son Cole (@colelclark) to his first U2 concert. It was a gift for me as a dad to spend a killer night at a concert where I knew the band would not violate my trust. It was an amazing adventure, and, as expected, there was zero profanity and no sexually explicit, inappropriate innuendoes from stage. Bono and the Edge stuck to iconic guitar riffs and vocals that seemed to soar straight through the roof, out of the building and into the stratosphere.

Here are five things that Cole and I learned at the concert:

1. Causes Count.

Midway through the concert Bono and band made a powerful promotion for (red).


Bono talked about how 600 babies a day are born with HIV Aids, and all it takes to stop this cycle is 2 pills a day. Two pills a day stop HIV Aids from spreading from moms to newborn babies. The tag line for the moment was …

Where you live in the world should not determine …
Whether you live.

LEADERS: People’s hearts are drawn toward causes. If you want people to buy in to your message, link your talk to a cause people care about.  As a Christian, I care deeply about the cause of Jesus.  His saving power and grace is the greatest and most curious cause in the world.

2. Our Virtual & Physical Lives Are Increasingly Melting Together.

One of the highlights of the show was Bono bringing three sisters up on the stage and giving them a phone loaded and ready to go with the Meerkat App to live stream the song.  If you are not familiar with Meerkat, look it up! It’s cousin, called Periscope, was just purchased by Twitter for 100 million dollars, and it is the immediate future of live stream and life sharing through social media.

LEADERS: Social media is “amoral,” and, just like money, it can be used for good or bad. There will be plenty of bad on new APPS like Meerkat and Periscope, so let’s flood the Twitterverse with good!


Seven reasons leaders should use APPS like Meerkat and Periscope by my friend Will Mancini.
1. Every new social tool is a new opportunity to learn as a leader.
2. Your influence may dramatically increase if you are an early adopter with a tool that will be widespread.
3. Periscope doesn’t start from scratch but leverages your current twitter following.
4. Periscope removes the greatest barrier to discipleship—opportunities for life modeling that don’t require physical presence.
5. Periscope expands how a mobile society can stay connected to your ministry events.
6. Periscope creates a new horizon of innovation opportunity for the almost 8 billion in the world.
7. There will be tons of distracting and even evil stuff on Periscope, so let’s saturate it with the gospel!

To read this full article by Will Mancini click here.

3. People Love Authentic & Off the Script Moments.

Early in the concert Bono invited a young man onto the stage. He asked him his age three times, and each time the boy responded, “My name is Adam!” He was a little freaked out. He finally said he was 8 years old, and the crowd went wild.

Later in the show Bono brought three sisters on stage and put a phone in one sister’s hand to live stream the song with the Meerkat APP as mentioned above.

And finally, the band brought a guy right out of the crowd, handed him a guitar and let him play along with the band for an entire song.  The man was in awe to be on stage with U2.  He kept hugging and then kissing the band’s hands!  Here is the video of this well scripted, unscripted moment on video:


In the midst of a precise and perfectly rehearsed show, there is nothing so welcomed as some spontaneity. Though these invitations were scripted, the interaction was not. The young man, Adam, forgot his age. The third of the three sisters did not want to leave the stage. And the man playing guitar jumped and ran around everywhere before finally bending down and kissing all the band’s hands before he exited.

It was “off the script.”

And people loved it.

LEADERS: People aren’t as interested in perfection as they are authenticity.

[Tweet “Spontaneity is a companion of the prepared. “] [Tweet “Perfection is a terrible thing to pursue.”]

4. Peace Is A Powerful Concept. 

In a world full of wars and rivals there was a simple and repetitive call for peace.

Not to abandon your beliefs but to seek a better way to live.

As Bono quoted part of Psalm 23 at one point and then another time asked everyone to offer up prayers, it was for God to bring peace to our world and our hearts.

Let our hearts seek resolution.
Let our hearts seek restoration.
Let our hearts seek reconciliation.

LEADERS: You don’t have to win every battle. Ask yourself if it is more important for you to make a long term difference or a short term point.


5. Greatness Requires Endurance.



U2 has been making music since 1976. The band formed at Mount Temple Comprehensive School when the members were teenagers with limited musical ability or experience. The first band audition was held at 60 Rosemount Avenue, Artane, the house of then 14-year-old drummer Larry Mullen. The other boys who made it to that first session were 15-year-old guitarist David Evans (later nicknamed The Edge), 16-year-old Adam Clayton, who couldn’t actually play bass guitar but talked as though he did and Paul Hewson. Later nicknamed Bono Vox (good voice). And then just Bono.

Within four years, they signed with Island Records and released their debut album Boy. By the mid-1980s, U2 had become a top international act. U2 has been touring now for over 30 years, and their music endures, but they have also endured a lot of life.

For instance, at the age of 14, Bono suffered a tragic and devastating loss when his mother died of a brain hemorrhage while attending the funeral of her own father.  At that point Bono says that he and his father did not get along very well. There have also been numerous challenges, misunderstandings, misrepresentations and accusations made of of the band because of their activism and spirituality.  When they have taken a stand for people in poverty or with HIV Aids, they have often come under fire. And when Bono professes his faith and talks about Jesus but doesn’t live perfectly in the public limelight, he is villainized.

You see, what we don’t know about U2 is all the obstacles they have faced individually and as a band relationally, financially, emotionally and spiritually.  And yet they have endured. They are not only commited to their music, they are commited to each other.

LEADERS: All great things take time. And your ability to become a great leader is directly related to your ability to endure pain. There is no such thing as an overnight sensation.

[Tweet “Don’t let people’s compliments get to your head & don’t let people’s criticism get to your heart.”]


  • Robert Bergmann Reply
    May 23, 2015

    Mel McGowan and I took a small group to U2’s 360 tour a few years ago in Los Angeles. We were unprepared to see how Bono was able to lead over 100,000 people in Amazing Grace. It’s as though we were all in an outdoor church together.

    • Todd Clark Reply
      May 25, 2015

      It is a lot like church with them / him. God living in us makes that possible I suppose! Have a great weekend Robert.

  • I took my 14 year-old to see the band last year as well. It’s so good to connect with him over good music and a good purpose. Some of our deepest spiritual conversations have sprung from moments in the show.

    • Todd Clark Reply
      August 5, 2016

      Yes indeed!

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