There are two kinds of people: those who believe he’s a self-aggrandizing messianic tax-evading blowhard and those who believe that he’s genuinely trying to change the planet for the good. Fortune believes the latter.
Bono: I Will Follow
Irish rock icon Bono leads a widely acclaimed, data-driven, global organization that influences governments, rallies C-suites, and raises hundreds of millions of dollars for people living in poverty. What’s his secret? An ability to convince others that they are the true leaders of change, not him. Here’s what business can learn from a music legend.
“Why isn’t everyone proclaiming this to the hills? Isn’t this big news?” Bono, lead singer of the Irish band U2, is working the crowd. It is the fourth night of the Innocence and Experience Tour in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, a multimedia spectacle with two stages, a catwalk, and an untold number of cathedral-high digital screens—a pageant of rock-and-roll theatricality that feels justifiably epic for a band that has sold 175 million records, won 22 Grammys, and notched the highest-grossing world tour in history. But that’s not the crowd Bono is working. As throngs of U2 faithful rush the arena for the July 2015 concert, the band’s 55-year-old front man is at a makeshift meet-and-greet three floors above and a world away. There, in a curtained, pop-up sanctuary, behind rows of chairs and rigging equipment, Bono embraces House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. He claps a fund manager on the shoulder and says warmly, “We are winning the fight against AIDS.” Statistics pour out of his mouth like so much small talk as he welcomes the 30 or so gathered VIPs: The United Nations had just issued a report showing that new HIV infections have fallen by 35%, AIDS-related deaths by 41%, and millions more people than expected are getting life-saving medication. Bono relates the news as if he is an infectious-disease expert, not a rock star. As it happens, he’s both.