Alpha Dogs, the Beatles and Power
Anita Sharpe on Life
I have two alpha male dogs: a laid-back Rhodesian Ridgeback, Copper, and an aptly named standard poodle, Tiger, who desperately wants to be top dog. At least twice a day, Tiger stages a power dance which consists of lots of teeth-baring and barking. Copper, who is the older of the two and has a certain canine gravitas, always wins the bark off. Tiger, undeterred, keeps trying. He never tires of the game.
People are different; the power dance invariably grows tiresome. For some reason, this started met thinking about one of my favorite subjects --the Beatles -- and their demise. Almost everyone who follows the Beatles agrees that their greatness stemmed from the creative tension between John Lennon and Paul McCartney: each always tried to write a better song than the other.
In the early days, John, who formed the group as a teen-ager and invited the younger Paul to join, was the lead writer on the group's No. 1 singles. But in 1965, when Paul penned Yesterday, the tables turned. From that point forward, Paul's writing dominated the Beatles' top hits -- out of the next 16 No. 1 singles, Paul was the driver behind Day Tripper, We Can Work it Out, Paperback Writer, Penny Lane, Hello Goodbye, Lady Madonna, Hey Jude, Get Back, Let it Be, and The Long and Winding Road. (And Sgt. Pepper -- the band's critical triumph -- was his idea, as well.)\n\nMy theory on why they broke up is John, being less energetically alpha than Paul but still very competitive, grew tired of the power dance as he got more interested in other stuff. Paul, meanwhile, surely hated getting second billing on songs he essentially wrote.\n\nIn my 20 years of covering business, I've seen similar scenarios play out over and over. You could probably make a case that nearly every great ad agency was formed by the defection of a strong creative talent from another great agency. The same thing happens in the worlds of tech, retailing, publishing. . . And on balance, it seems more positive than not.\n\nAnd yet -- I think about the wonderful alchemy of the Beatles and the products of that creative tension and can't help wondering how the world might be different if power were less of a zero-sum game.\n\n