Neil Diamond on Authenticity

Leaders who standout are those willing to be ‘originals.’  They do not mimic others; these individuals find their own voice. Neil Diamond knows something about this.

When you consider the great musicians of the last few decades, Neil Diamond must be on your list. Not only has he sold over 125 million records, but Neil has had ten #1 singles, a Grammy award (plus ten nominations), a hit movie, and a dedicated troupe of fans. None of this would have been possible if Neil had stayed on his initial trajectory.

When Neil first started out on his post-medical school career path, his voice and style were impressions of The Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly.

That’s probably why I spent eight years down there in Tin Pan Alley and had very little success…There was not a lot of me in those songs.

In a 2005 interview, he stated that imitating someone else’s voice and experience in a song was not going to help his attain his goals. Success did not occur until Neil was able to sing his songs in his voice.

Solitary Man was the first in a long line of ‘me’ songs, my experience songs.

As leaders we need to remember that our path to success cannot be built on impersonations. Sure, we learn from mentors and may have emulated a few of their mannerisms, but we need to be authentic to ourselves. If you are copying a habit you’ve observed because it worked for someone else, there is no guarantee that it will work for you. Chances are, it will appear fake and insincere…because it is.

Being yourself is easy to say, harder to do. So instead, try to be natural. Consider what you are attempting to accomplish. If you liked what someone else has said, try to ape the moment, not the verbiage. Re-phrase it into words that fit your style. If it still doesn’t feel right, quote whoever originally said it so you can maintain your voice.

Singing a few bars of Sweet Caroline doesn’t hurt either.