What is Gangnam style?

19 Dec 2012 Voices

Tesse Akpeki ponders how charities might harness the attributes of Psy's global hit tune to achieve similar success for their own causes.


Tesse Akpeki ponders how charities might harness the attributes of Psy's global hit tune to achieve similar success for their own causes.

I recently ran a session on leadership and management.   We spoke about the challenges of leadership and elements that can make leadership attractive.   I mentioned the possibility of applying a “Gangnam style” approach to leadership.   All but one of the participants recognised the words ‘Gangnam style’.   The one who did not recognise it, asked: “What is Gangnam style”?

I went on to explain that Gangnam style had become an internet sensation currently notching up more than 957 million views since it was posted in July.  The famous horse dance with ridiculously catchy tune and lyrics has the world enthralled to South Korea’s best pop export, rapper Psy.  

There is much that we can borrow from Psy’s approach other than the fact that he sparked a global dance craze.  Psy waived his copyright thereby generating YouTube tributes that add to the success of the original. From the cover by the musical Glee group, to the cover by the schoolboys from Eton College and the Children in Need appeal by the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips, the wide appeal has led to unabated Gangnam fever.  We often forget that Sir Tim Berners-Lee, now director of the World Wide Web Consortium, wrote a proposal for what would eventually become the World Wide Web. The internet continues to bring much development to the world.

As I reflect on sensitive issues such as engagement and participation, I look out for a future shaped and enhanced by a full range of communities of interest.  The wide appeal of Gangnam is apparent in its diverse fan base, which ranges from Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to an Afghan-style appeal to raise money for mountain rescue and a video released by Thames Water.

At the very least we know that there is a possibility of capturing the public imagination.  While the sewage clip was hilarious because the singing was so out of tune, the fun slide show contained a serious message about sewage.   Are there ways of channelling our key messages that raise awareness and attract attention that brings about social change?  Can we excel in our work by trailblazing our paths with humour and seriousness?  This is a really fine balance. 

Psy is the first Korean pop artist to score a UK number one.  As leaders, how can we be distinct and demonstrate excellence in our chosen mission and values? As Christmas flashes a Gangnam-style twist with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John reliving their Grease experience, I can’t help but think of how Gangnam style might be applied to governance.   Beleaguered trustees are often beaten and bashed; even those doing a great job are rarely heralded for their invaluable contributions.  A thought for 2013.  How can we attract more people to become trustees and what can we do to celebrate the contributions of the vast army of trustees who sit on our boards? Now that is a magical thought – Gangnam style!

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