The Leadership Lesson that Wows the Audience in Hamilton

Those close to me know I’ve been in love with the musical Hamilton for well over a year and a half. They also know I have a background in musical theatre. My bachelor’s degree is in voice, and I spent a lot of years performing in shows. I always aspired to be on Broadway, and even now I’m still a song and dance man in my heart. Yes, that’s a picture of me starring in Hair many, many years ago, and no, I didn’t get naked in the show. They picked a better looking guy for that part.

If you are not familiar with Hamilton, it’s the story of one of our country’s lesser known (not anymore, thanks to the show) founding fathers told through hip-hop and R&B music. In the past 24 months, it’s become a worldwide phenomenon and is one of the most critically acclaimed productions ever, winning a Tony award and the Pulitzer for drama. It’s a masterpiece.

And a few weeks ago, I got to see it live in Chicago.

I’m sharing this with you via my leadership blog because one of my favorite scenes in the show echoes one of the chapters in my book, Cure for the Common Leader.

Early in the second act, our narrator Aaron Burr sings about “The Room Where it Happens,” detailing Hamilton’s efforts to pass legislation to establish a national bank. Opposed most notably by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the three ultimately meet behind closed doors. History has a limited record of what happened (Jefferson’s version only), but in the end, Hamilton agreed to support moving the nation’s capital to what is now Washington, D.C., in exchange for the votes needed to pass his legislation. Burr sings:

[box] No one else was in the room where it happened […] /
No one really knows how the game is played /
The art of the trade, how the sausage gets made /
We just assume that it happens… /
But no one else is in the room where it happens[/box]

And then:

[box] No one else was in the room where it happened […] /
No one really knows how the parties get to yes /
The pieces that are sacrificed in every game of chess /
We just assume that it happens… /
But no one else is in the room where it happens[/box]

This song is the true “showstopper” number in Hamilton, as Burr describes how hazardous it can be when those in power make decisions in private without involving the very people the decision will affect the most.

In Cure for the Common Leader, I translate research about employee engagement and motivation into 7 strategies leaders must use to engage and inspire healthcare teams. One of these 7 strategies is to “Share the information employees need to do their jobs.”

Most who serve in management and leadership roles are privy to a much wider cache of information than front-line employees. As a result, they understand why decisions are made and what may happen in the future much more than non-managers. That’s why leaders who want their direct reports to develop a more emotional and psychological commitment to their work must intentionally share more information with employees than perhaps they are wired to.

In other words, leaders must invite employees into “The Room Where it Happens.”

This can’t always physically happen, of course, but leaders have to put forth effort to share detailed updates and insights as much as possible. As leaders, we must be more forthcoming about the financial health and performance of an organization. We must find ways to inform employees about the politics and personalities that influence their work environment. We must share more detail about processes, timelines, resources, and opportunities.

When leaders work to keep their teams in “The Room Where it Happens,” they get employees who buy-in and are more resilient in the face of stressful change. And though employees won’t always agree with decisions or changes, they are far more likely to commit anyway if they’ve been informed and are kept knowledgeable about the many forces at work in the environment.

Or as Hamilton tells Burr in “The Room Where it Happens:” “When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game …”

You can listen to “The Room Where it Happens” by clicking here. You can get a copy of Cure for the Common Leader here.

Joe Mull, M.Ed, is a leadership trainer and keynote speaker. He works with healthcare organizations that want their practice leaders to engage, inspire, and succeed. To learn more or bring Joe to your site, visit


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