Beyond the Music: 10 Examples of How Pop Icon Taylor Swift Epitomizes Authentic Leadership

Late to the party…

When Taylor Swift gained popularity in the mid 2000’s I chalked her up to “just another cookie-cutter, generic mainstream pop star“. I’ve always prided myself on having an eclectic taste in music, and my Spotify playlists rarely included any current Top 40 Hits, just my usual favorite throwbacks. I was dead wrong.

I’m even willing to admit that I regret not jumping on her fan-wagon sooner. It wasn’t until earlier this year that her iconic song Anti-Hero found it’s way into Discover Weekly. The first stanza of lyrics grabbed my attention:

I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser

Midnights become my afternoons

When my depression works the graveyard shift

All of the people I’ve ghosted stand there in the room

She continued…

I should not be left to my own devices

They come with prices and vices

I end up in crisis (tale as old as time)

I wake up screaming from dreaming

One day I’ll watch as you’re leaving

‘Cause you got tired of my scheming

(For the last time)

It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me

At tea time, everybody agrees

I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror

It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero

Leading from the stage

“What’s this?”, I thought. I went on to listen to the entire song multiple times until I was captivated by Swift’s raw, real, #vulnerability. I tracked down this clip of her talking about the song in an interview, went on to discover her 2022 Commencement Speech at NYU where she talked about life’s “cringeworthy moments”, and then, her absolutely-flawlessly-authentic acceptance speech at the 2023 iHeart Radio Music Awards. This woman is the real deal.

The paradox of feminine power

Taylor Swift’s special brand of confident-humility, relatability, and authenticity demonstrates that she leads from a place of exercising her power to make a positive difference through normalizing the pain of being human through her music, and leading by example.

So much so that this recent Fortune article proves that her authentic leadership is extremely #profitable: Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour will be the first to shatter $1 billion in ticket sales, making a lot of people richer: ‘The dollar bill should have her face on it’

This inspired me to do a deeper dive into her secret sauce and all the ways she’s demonstrated #authenticleadership during the timeframe that I was “sleeping on” her brilliance.


Top 10 Taylor Swift Authentic Leadership Traits:

  1. Self-Awareness: In her documentary, “Miss Americana,” Swift opens up about the challenges she faced in the public eye and how they made her reflect upon her values and identity. This level of self-awareness allows her to connect with her audience on a more profound level.
  2. Transparency: Swift’s 2019 album, “Lover,” reflects her newfound happiness and stability in her relationship, showcasing a very different side of her than in her previous, more tumultuous albums. Her transparency about her emotional states through her music has garnered her much praise and trust from her fanbase.
  3. Ethical Conduct: Taylor Swift took a stand against Scooter Braun’s acquisition of her music catalogue, publicly discussing the ethics of artists owning their own work. This started a wider conversation about artist rights in the music industry.
  4. Empathy: In 2015, Swift donated $50,000 to a young fan who was battling leukemia, showcasing her compassion and understanding for what her fans go through.
  5. Inspirational Motivation: Songs like “Shake It Off” and “The Man” serve to inspire listeners to break free from societal norms and criticisms. Through her music, she uplifts her audience and encourages them to be better versions of themselves.
  6. Consistency: One could look at how she’s remained true to her storytelling style of writing songs throughout her career, despite changing genres. From country to pop to indie, her core method of storytelling has remained a cornerstone of her brand.
  7. Balanced Processing: Swift’s careful transition from country to pop, and eventually to indie/folk with her “folklore” and “evermore” albums, shows strategic thinking and a balanced approach to career changes.
  8. Open Communication: Swift broke her political silence in 2018 by endorsing Democratic candidates in the Tennessee midterm elections, urging her fans to vote and explaining her reasons for her choices. This was a significant moment of direct communication about an issue she deemed vital.
  9. Courage: In 2017, Swift took a radio DJ to court for sexual assault and won, making a strong public stand against harassment. She only sought a symbolic $1 in damages, making clear that her lawsuit was about standing up for women.
  10. Commitment to Personal Growth and Development: Swift’s release of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” can be seen as a commitment to both artistic and personal growth. Re-recording her own songs to own her masters isn’t just a smart business move, but also a sign of her evolving as an artist and taking control of her legacy.