Friday Reflection – We Are The World

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28th January 2025 will mark the 40th anniversary of the recording of “We Are the World”, the bestselling charity single of all time. In response, Netflix has released a documentary about the making of the song called “The Greatest Night in Pop”. Growing up in the 80’s I knew the song well but not the story behind it. It always seemed like the US version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” but with less familiar people to me than the British version, and in a way this is what it was.

I watched the documentary recently and loved it. Clearly, the message of the song is about hope and the strength of collective humanity, what I didn’t realise was that practically making the song happen required the same themes – hope and collective humanity.

Simply getting the likes of Billy Joel, Kenny Rogers, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Cyndi Lauper, Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones, and Michael Jackson in the same room at the same time was a logistical masterclass, then getting them to behave and work together into the very early hours of a very long night was a miracle and showed many lessons in both leadership and communication. Here are three of the lessons I took from the film:

1. A clearly defined and shared purpose can overcome many obstacles. The room was full of egotistical, self-interested superstars – yet they got together for the greater purpose – to relieve starvation from famine in Africa. When things do start to get a little unruly on the night there is a lovely speech from Bob Geldof remanding them all why they were there and boy do they settle down quickly even the rock stars.

2. Check your Ego at the Door – before the superstars entered the recording studio Quincy Jones who produced the song grabbed a marker pen and scribbled these words on a piece of paper he put above the entrance – Check your Ego at the Door. This wasn’t about individuals this was about a collective effort that needed teamwork, tolerance and compassion – all things ego can get in the way of.

3. We can all feel intimidated, it is how we take ourselves on those matters. Even though others clearly revere him in the room there is a lovely scene where Bob Dylan, who is known for his songwriting rather than power singing is clearly intimidated by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Hughie Lewis blasting out the song next to him. He appears to mumble the chorus and when it comes to his solo he freezes. It takes Stevie Wonder to sing Dylan’s part in the style of Dylan, like a mimic, before he grows in confidence and trusts his own process rather than comparing himself to others.

The film is a great nostalgic journey that shows what can be achieved if we work together, put our egos aside to understand our collective purpose and if we trust the value that we each individually bring to the party.