by Mark Fornasiero

Did any of you catch SNL last week? It was amazing to see Foo Fighters, looking as fresh, energetic and relevant as ever, decades after their breakout in 1994. This post was inspired by that performance…

The Dave Grohl School of Leadership – Biz 101 with the Foo Fighters


Let’s consider for a moment the commercial success of the band’s leader, drummer / guitarist / singer-songwriter Dave Grohl. Did you know that Nirvana and Foo Fighters have combined to sell over 85 million albums worldwide? To reach that level of success in an industry that has gone through the degree of gut-wrenching changes that the music business has been through is nothing short of remarkable. The fact that he has done it while maintaining a high degree of integrity and creativity means there are probably more than a few lessons the business world can take from Mr. Grohl.


In fact, I recall an interview he gave a few years ago in Rolling Stone that struck me at the time as being awash in leadership and business advice (though he probably didn’t see it that way). So, let’s go to business school with rocker Dave Grohl and his band, Foo Fighters. Here are some quotes from that article and the implications for leadership and business strategy:


1. Dave: “I might be an earnest and nerdy guy, but it’s worked for the past 20 years.”

Lesson: Being genuine and truthful in life, or business, leads to lasting success. People want to associate, align themselves, and do business with, the real deal.

2. Dave: “Just remember, all it f**king (he swears a lot, let’s give him the poetic license) takes is for you to turn someone else on to something that’ll change their f**king life. Imagine all the s**t you can turn your friends on to…”

Lesson: Look for ways to impact people’s lives. The journey you will take them on will have huge rewards for both of you.

3. Pat Smear (Foo Fighters’ guitarist): “Dave has a vision. Our job is to meet that vision, or do something that exceeds it.”

Lesson: You know what Pat is describing there? An aligned culture. The leader sets the vision. His team fully buys into it and wants not only to achieve it, but EXCEED IT! How many business leaders reading this have their employees/team members talk like that about where they want to take their business?

4. Butch Vig (legendary record producer): “People follow him because they believe Dave is sincere. He wants to make records that have relevance.”

Lesson: Integrity. Honesty. Vulnerability. Do people in your company talk like that about their boss in this way?

5. Dave: “I would walk into interviews (for the HBO documentary) with real questions I didn’t know the answers to. I looked at them as lessons.”

Lesson: The guy behind two of the biggest bands of the last generation is looking for lessons anywhere he can get them. Life-time learner. Endlessly curious. Sounds like he should be heading up your innovation program.

6. Dave: “…there is so much opportunity in America. Why not find the thing you don’t know how to do and do it yourself? The opportunity is there.”

Lesson: He doesn’t want to keep repeating himself. He wants to get good at things he doesn’t know how to do. Tell me this guy couldn’t run a wildly innovative, creative, ground-breaking company in any industry he chose.

7. Pat Smear: “Dave told someone in another band not long ago, ‘You need to get a band that makes you sound really good. That’s what I did.’”

Lesson: Surround yourself with great people. Hire people who are better than you and let them do their thing.

8. Dave: “The great thing about being surrounded by people you love is you can come to them and say, ‘I have an idea, ‘trust me’, and they say, ‘OK’….

Class dismissed.


Mark Fornasiero is the co-founder of ACE Coworking and an independent consultant specializing in growth-and-exit strategies for privately-held enterprises. Mark also provides professional consulting to entrepreneurs looking to launch and operate their own independent coworking spaces.