21 Of The Best Songs About Leadership And Great Leaders

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Not everyone is born to be a leader. In fact, it takes a special kind of person to rise to the level of a leader.

What sets leaders apart from followers is the strength and confidence that others wish they could emulate. We can see them everywhere. The head of a family, the top dog at a successful business, or that one friend in the group who makes social decisions.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of music out there to motivate you to be a leader in your own life. Check out our list of 21 of the best songs about leadership and find the one that speaks to you. You might feel yourself growing more inspired each time you listen.

1. “Brave” By Sara Bareilles

Pianist, singer, and songwriter Sara Bareilles released “Brave” in 2013. Since then, it has become one of the predominant anthems of confidence and self-assurance.

The lyrics encourage listeners to “be brave with what you want to say.” That is, without fear of judgment from others. Speaking out and acting with authenticity are two of the biggest traits of a good leader. It’s no surprise this song makes it to the playlists of many CEOs.

The upbeat, sparkly pop beat supports the energy of the message, which rings true for typical people as well as authoritative figures.

2. “All Star” By Smash Mouth

One of 1999’s biggest hits has endured becoming a classic pop-rock hit. Radio listeners heard “All Star” by Smash Mouth all through the 2000s. It worked its way into pop culture to be a familiar earworm to most Americans.

So what is it about this song that applies to leadership? The words are an amusing juxtaposition of feeling beaten down by society but realizing that you’re able to rise above it all. You can shine your brightest even in the face of adversity.

The song encourages the listeners to “get your game on.” And sometimes, it’s necessary to take the risk and see for yourself.

3. “Run The World (Girls)” By Beyonce

What happens when you combine heavy African rhythms, powerful vocals, and an unapologetic feminist message? That’s what R&B powerhouse Beyonce seeks to find out with “Run the World.”

First of all, the lyrics celebrate female strength and ability. They enumerate everything women can do for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Queen Bey cites examples of business dealings and interpersonal situations to show that she knows how to carve out her place. That is, even among those who try to disrespect her. That’s the mark of a true leader.

4. “Get Up Stand Up” By Bob Marley And The Wailers

The tone might be laid-back reggae, but there are no two ways about the message here. In “Get Up Stand Up,” Bob Marley and the Wailers invite people to decide what they believe and then represent it, even to the point of being willing to fight to make their voices heard.

Another aspect of “Get Up Stand Up” is the idea of questioning what we’ve been told by society and religion. To stand up for our rights, we have to have a strong sense of autonomy and a solid moral and ethical center.

Marley’s words have resounded through the decades. They inspired countless leaders to use this tune as their anthem of protests and equal rights treatment.

5. “Girl On Fire” By Alicia Keys

Building a foundation of confidence takes you far in life. In “Girl on Fire,” the picture that Alicia Keys portrays can apply to any situation that takes personal fortitude.

Fearlessness is one of the primary attributes of leadership. Even when intimidated by external situations, leaders build the tools to navigate through them and come out ahead on the other side.

The “Girl On Fire” that Keys sings about is certainly a prime example of this. She might sometimes feel lonely or encounter setbacks. Still, she forges ahead to create positive change for herself and others.

6. “Leadership” By HoodratHippy

A leader is supposedly someone who guides or directs his peers. But sometimes, these so-called leaders exploit their position. HoodratHippy is having none of that, as shown in the 2019 song “Leadership.”

In a song with “leadership” in the title, the singer won’t let anyone control her. Especially not someone who’s “breathing down my throat.” She doesn’t need anyone or anything to run her life. Nobody will dictate what she should do.

The singer wants to tell her listeners that it’s her life. She’ll be the one to make the rules she’ll follow.

7. “Unstoppable” By Sia

Persistence is one of the most attractive qualities a leader can have. This is the reminder behind Sia’s 2016 single, “Unstoppable.”

Adjectives like “unstoppable” and “invincible” combine with a metaphor of wearing armor to show that no one can tear you down. When you’ve started toward your goals, the only one who can stop you is yourself.

You may have a moment of weakness (“Break down, only alone I will cry out loud”). But deep down, you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. Sia’s song will remind us that we have the power to accomplish anything.

8. “Speechless” By Naomi Scott

Vibrant and exciting, the 2019 live-action remake of Aladdin transformed the ‘90s Disney classic into a favorite for a new generation. The movie features Naomi Scott‘s “Speechless,” a sweeping ode to female empowerment.

“Speechless” celebrates a woman’s ability to speak her mind to enact change in her surroundings. The powers that be threaten to drown out her voice, to shut her and cut her down.

But Princess Jasmine decides to be louder, ensuring she is represented and respected. This is a policy any lady leader should adopt.

9. “Whatever It Takes” By Imagine Dragons

In a dangerous world that throws up so many obstacles, Imagine Dragons reminds us in “Whatever It Takes” that it pays to persevere.

Rather than blend into the crowd, these lyrics encourage listeners to strive for a higher role. There’s a determination that you can’t help but want to follow as the adrenaline kicks in and you find the motivation to do more and be more.

This is a hard-hitting rock tune that pushes leaders to rise to the top, no matter where their starting point may lie. And you don’t stop your climb until you’ve accomplished your goals.

10. “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” By Owl City

Singer-songwriter Owl City wrote “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” in 2018. This tender ode to his father is not a traditional portrait of what we might think of as a leader. But this person showed him how to be a man.

Young describes a personality that is strong, humble, and unintimidated. Just what someone needs to be a leader. The song illustrates that you don’t have to fight crime or gain notoriety to change someone’s life for the better.

The father in the song inspires his son to follow in his footsteps by simply setting an example of being a good human. And just this simple act of being a role model sets the stage for his son to be a leader someday.

11. “Fearless” By Jasmine Murray

This moving song from Christian newcomer Jasmine Murray tackles the subject of fear, something every leader encounters. Though a person might struggle with self-doubt, victory is not in avoiding fear. It’s in how we deal with it when it arises.

The uplifting music shows that with God, she can handle any challenge life gives her. And with God, she can be fearless. She can face any obstacle, “no holding back, no backing down.”

You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the sentiment of “Fearless” and apply it to your own situation.

12. “Big Boss Man” By Elvis Presley

Ironically, the message of “Big Boss Man” isn’t one of reverence. Here, Elvis Presley sings about all the things that went wrong with the kind of leadership in the workplace.

The song discusses issues revolving around labor rights. We’re talking about hours, working conditions, and respect. The Big Boss demands his workers to work round the clock, not even allowing them to take a moment to drink.

Though Presley sings it with a tongue-out attitude, the head of a company would be wise to heed his story to treat their employees in a way that ensures their devotion.

13. “Doubt” By Mary J. Blige

The “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” offers something different in “Doubt.” Instead of her typical rap fare, Mary J. Blige lets her melodic vocals soar.

Blige has won industry awards for her singing and songwriting, which pushed her to be the icon that she is. This song tells the story of how she got there.

The song quickly begins with Blige singing, “You said I’d never be a leader.” Her haters tried to tell her she’d never make it to the top, but she proved them wrong. Because “she made it to the end.” Despite the sacrifices, her success is worth it.

14. “Keep On Pushing” By The Impressions

Persistence is a key component of leadership, especially shown in the face of adversity. The Impressions put out an album in 1964 that would go on and become their biggest commercial success, and it’s understandable when you hear the most popular track from it, “Keep On Pushing.”

It’s no secret that living means encountering challenges of all kinds. The question is what you decide to do when they appear on your path and threaten your happiness.

To this classy and inspiring Motown group, the answer is to move forward and take it all in stride. He’s got the strength, so there’s no point not pushing forward when obstacles try to drag him down.

15. “Stand” By Rascal Flatts

Country-pop group Rascal Flatts often sings about familiar obstacles such as heartbreak and personal setbacks. Some of their tunes, like “What Hurts the Most,” represent a place of mourning for the past. But “Stand” does the opposite.

The lyrics show that even leaders have their moments of weakness. That they’re not strong all the time. Like the rest of us, they also feel “alone and helpless.” But what sets them apart from the rest is how they respond.

After being pushed down to their knees, they stand up. And then they move on. They may bend, but they will not break. That’s a testament to a leader’s inner strength.

16. “Go The Distance” By Michael Bolton

Disney’s 1997 movie Hercules gave the world a message of strength and endurance with “Go the Distance.” Sung by Michael Bolton, the track is about someone striving to find his place in the world.

Leaders know that they have to work hard and undergo tests of character to prove themselves. It isn’t always easy because the way is filled with obstacles that can slow them down.

But finding the strength is necessary to “go the distance.” Despite the challenges, a leader will “stay on track” and “won’t accept defeat.” Success awaits him at the end of his journey.

17. “Eight Easy Steps” By Alanis Morissette

Up next is a song with “leadership” in the lyrics. Alanis Morissette‘s “Eight Easy Steps” teaches the listeners how to be someone they’re not. Obviously, who can teach all of these things more than someone who has gone through it all?

In the lyrics, the singer lists off all the things she’s done or is doing. These are not good stuff, and so she is warning her listeners from doing them. Some of these things include “How to mistrust the ones you supposedly love the most” and “How to pretend you’re fine and don’t need help from anyone.”

The line “I’ll show you how leadership looks when taught by the best” signifies that she’s the expert when it comes to these things.

18. “The Champion” By Carrie Underwood Ft. Ludacris

Country superstar Carrie Underwood has plenty of musical fodder for aspiring winners. One of them is “The Champion.” This is an appropriate reflection of what she’s been able to achieve on her own merits.

With adjectives like “unshakeable” and phrases like “born to win,” the song is about people who succeed in their chosen path. The lyrics use boxing analogies to celebrate a hard worker who insists on finding their peak victory.

Rapper Ludacris contributes a verse about having the courage and the right attitude to get where you want to go.

19. “With My Own Two Hands” By Ben Harper

Anyone who tries to change the world can utilize two elements: the strengths of the people around them or the power of their own vision. In “With My Own Two Hands,” Ben Harper focuses on the latter.

Beyond his own goals, the singer strives to progress toward a better world. He believes he can do this by himself – and that you’re able to as well.

With values like kindness, empathy, and cooperation, this song shows what it takes to be a leader. Even small steps can create a ripple effect that eventually achieves greater things.

20. “Lookin’ For A Leader” By Neil Young

The message of “Lookin’ for a Leader” is as clear as day. Here, Neil Young sings about finding a better leader for his country.

According to the singer, the current leader is not as effective as he hoped he would be. He wishes for someone that would bring the country together as one. That person is preferably young to take on such a huge responsibility, particularly where corruption is concerned.

The singer furthers that America already has a leader. He’s someone walking among the people, but they must find him. At the end of the song, he plays with the idea of the leader being a woman or a black man.

21. “Leader Of The Band” By Dan Fogelberg

Our last entry on the list is a song that mentions “leader” to refer to Dan Fogelberg‘s father. Like “Not All Heroes Wear Capes,” “Leader of the Band” is a loving tribute to a father.

Fogelberg’s dad was a band director, hence the title of the song. But to him, his dad is more than that. The song shows the listener just what kind of father the elderly Folgelberg was and what kind of relationship they have.

Obviously, it’s something that the singer would treasure for the rest of his life. In the song, he thanks his father for shaping him into the man he is now. And though he fails, he tries to follow in the footsteps of his dad.

Summing Up Our List Of Leadership Songs

As you can see, being a leader is no easy feat. You don’t have to be perfect, that’s for sure, but taking on responsibility requires certain attributes and qualities.

But what the songs above showed is that a leader can just be anybody. He can be a big personality like the president, or he can be someone ordinary like a father. And guess what? You can be a leader, too.

We hope you enjoyed our list today. With inspiring songs like these on your playlist, you can start effecting change in your own life—one step at a time.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.