Leadership Lessons From “Gangnam Style”

In case you haven’t kept up with trends in pop culture, Psy has become an international craze with his performance of Gangnam (pronounced Gahng-nahm) Style. Over 300 million have viewed the video on YouTube and it broke the Guinness book of World records for most views. Psy has been invited onto the Ellen Degeneres show and taught Britney Spears the now famous Gangnam Style dance moves which imitates the riding of an invisible horse.

The city government closed off the center of the South Korean capital Seoul so that he could perform his free concert.

Leadership Lessons from "Gangnam Style"

Concert in Seoul Gangnam Style

What causes these crazes to catch on and become viral?

The book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell discusses this phenomenon in his book. It turns out that Hush Puppies made a huge comeback largely as a result of a small bar in SOHO in NYC where young people began wearing Hush Puppies almost as an anti-establishment statement. Then some fashion designers began using them on the runway.

Gladwell said “Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push — in just the right place — it can be tipped”

I don’t think Psy had any idea about how successful his latest video and dance would become. But, are there lessons that we can extract from this international phenomenon?

1. Let your style emerge.

I think that there’s something liberating about losing your inhibitions about what everyone else will think about your actions. Psy’s mantra is “Dress classy and dance cheesy”. It’s his style and philosophy. He expresses this in his video from the toilet scene to the pelvic thrust scene in the elevator.

2. Psy teaches us that it’s possible to be successful and not pretentious

Psy seems unique, unpretentious, and willing to march to his own drum beat. Perhaps, his portly body image will change as his Gangnam Style dance becomes more common.

Psy marches to his own drum beat Gangnam Style

Leadership Lessons Gangnam Style

3. Whatever you do, do it with pride.

Psy doesn’t hold back, he bursts onto the scene with pride and confidence.

4. You never know where the next major cultural phenomenon will be coming from. Expect surprises.

In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for American pop artists to cross over internationally. Now, Korean pop artists are crossing over into American culture and we are singing along even though we don’t understand the language or cultural factors behind the song.

It turns out that Gangnam is an affluent district in Korea. Gangnam Style is a sharp social commentary about the country’s newly rich. Gangnam is only a small slice of Seoul, but it inspires a complicated mixture of desire, envy, and bitterness. Here is a link where Psy explains each shot of the video. Here is an infographic describing Psy and Gangnam.

This video has also spawned some imitations such as Obama Style.

and Mitt Romney Style

What other learning do you see from this cultural pop culture phenomenon?

So let’s step out as leaders, find our unique style, discover what’s possible, do it with pride, expect surprises, and create our own dance…..Gangnam Style.

About Dale Perryman

Conduct workshops and seminars on leadership, management, and employee development. Founder of Center for Organizational Learning. Co-founder and creator of MyMeetingPro, a suite of apps for iPhone and iPad that create simply effective meetings. Specialties include leading change, meeting facilitation, developing R&D leadership, merger integration, and social media marketing. Enjoy playing poker and stock investing in spare time.