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Old 01-11-2006, 08:02 AM   #1
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Revealing U2's Soul At Work

Revealing U2's Soul at Work

atU2, January 09, 2006

by Angela Pancella

Bono might be the one singing "show your soul," but Edge was the one chatting about U2's soul with author Margaret Benefiel.

Benefiel studies soul and spiritual values in the workplace. Her focus is on how organizations -- hospitals, factories, nonprofits, artist communities -- can take "soul needs," the deepest human needs, into account when making decisions and be healthy and successful. She has taught at business schools and theology schools, gives retreats to executives and nurses, is a CEO herself (her site is and has just written a book, Soul at Work (Seabury Books).

Soul at Work profiles a number of organizations that are run on soul-affirming principles, among them Southwest Airlines, Reell Precision Manufacturing -- and U2. How exactly did U2 get into the mix? Benefiel explained in a phone interview that she held the O'Donnell Chair of Spirituality at the Milltown Institute in Dublin a couple of years ago, and "Ireland's a small country...! I met people who knew [Edge], one thing led to another. I was at a dinner with him one night and I ended up talking with him about his spiritual life.

"It was great. I really enjoyed talking with him. I was very impressed with his thoughtfulness and depth. It's easy to think of rock stars as shallow, focused on fame and money -- he's not like that at all. I was quite impressed."

Benefiel knew about U2 before starting her project. "I had heard their music on the radio and had a couple of CDs and had heard about them in the news, Bono's debt relief work." She had reason to think an interview with Edge would make a fine contribution to her book. "I had a positive impression [that U2 are] a band that does use their music to get across their message of values that speaks to this age...I think they are one of the few voices in Ireland and, well, everywhere really -- Ireland, Europe, the States -- that speak to young people about spiritual values and justice issues. They have a fresh voice, they are able to speak to the upcoming generation."

Fans know ways U2's organization shows integrity -- how the songwriting credit is shared equally, how public apologies were made for the Vertigo tour fanclub presale -- but Benefiel did not focus on these in her questions for Edge. "I was very interested in the community within U2," she said, "how they work together as a band, because rock bands are notorious for not working together, [notorious for] the prima donna rock star ego. I was interested how they deal with conflict."

Benefiel said Edge told her how the relationships within the band "are pretty indestructible. Because they've gone through so much together they have learned to fight with each other in constructive ways and ask those questions [like] 'What is good for U2 and not just the individual?'" She didn't worry about not including more about U2's business model because she had a wide range of other businesses profiled in Soul at Work, and "I got best practices from them. [The community approach was] an aspect that was unique to U2."

And a focus on "the U2 community" is unique to Soul at Work; no other article or book on the band has given this aspect so much attention. What follows is the excerpt from Benefiel's book that deals with U2.

The U2 Community

It's a very healthy way to live your life, not to be so wrapped up in yourself, but actually to think in terms of "us." I think U2 and U2's fans are good at thinking about "us" in a very broad sense. - The Edge

This sense of "us," which U2's guitarist The Edge articulates, permeates all aspects of U2, from the way the band relates to one another to the sense of community at U2 concerts to the band's sense of connection with the wider world.

U2 (the band and the larger U2 community) is not your typical organization, but it clearly manifests the hallmarks of "soul at work." Behind the Grammy awards, the concerts, and the music, its members manage to create an identity that transcends the individual and supports the greater mission. This corporate identity has evolved from when the four band members first joined together in the 1970s and continues to evolve today. The challenge for U2, as for other organizations described in this book, is "How do we balance sustaining our soul, doing our work, and being individuals committed together?"

Within the band itself, huge rock star egos have no place. Band members ask themselves, "What's good for U2 as a whole?" While admitting that they all have quite healthy egos, The Edge observes, "Your ego, in our case, gets subsumed into a kind of band ego," a situation that is possible only because everyone is secure in his position. "No one's trying to do anyone else down. It's kind of the opposite. You know if you get a chance to compliment somebody else, in the end you're complimenting the whole band." The relationships band members have with one another stem from mutual respect and many years of hard work. Band members have grown up together, gone through their apprenticeship as musicians together, fought with one another, and matured in their Christian faith together. "There's a stability there and a kind of trust that is pretty indestructible at this point," comments The Edge. "A very miniature community like we have is a great model for success. It's a very effective form of cooperation for everybody involved."

Beyond the band itself, a sense of community pervades U2's wider circles. For example, The Edge notes, "At U2 concerts, there's a great sense of unity in the venue, whether it's a full stadium or a small theatre. There's a kind of an understanding that everybody there shares a certain view of how the world could be and they're interested in literally changing the world." Band members have been delighted to hear from such organizations as Amnesty International and Greenpeace that many new members have become involved with them because of U2's influence.

U2 members bring their whole selves to their music, including their spirituality, and thus go against the grain of the artistic world they inhabit. "We throw everything in, you know, politics, religion, sex, everything that is us. I think that is what's missing now in music, that completely holistic thing. It's like art and music mostly has completely turned its back on anything spiritual for such a long time," observes The Edge, also noting that he thinks that trend will change eventually. U2 is aware of a generation growing up in their native Ireland with the influence of the Catholic church having waned and nothing yet replacing that spiritual influence. Because they believe that to be human is to be spiritual, U2 looks forward to the day when the spiritual element reasserts itself in Western society in general and in the arts in particular.

U2 members are not involved in the institutional church; they rely on their wider community to nurture them in their spiritual lives. The Edge describes this community: "There is that community sense that I would associate with the Christian ideal of looking after your neighbor. But it isn't always pretty; in fact it's often very rough. Like do you care enough about someone to risk confronting them with the truth, if it is going to hurt them? That's love in action, real commitment to one another, real community, and it has nothing to do with being nice to everyone at all times. So in some ways rather than being a once a week concept, it's sort of the way we try and live here. And the challenge is to try to move it out further, so there's not just your immediate small community but it's asking, can you get it to be bigger and bigger?"

While the band doesn't have a specific plan for increasing the scope of the good they do in the world, they continue to maintain their vision of transforming the world. And they know that that transformation begins with them. As The Edge puts it, "I just think by continuing what we're doing I hope there'll be a natural process of change in us." As they change, they understand that they'll influence the U2 community around them. The Edge muses, "It's nice to feel like you might have been a bit of a catalyst along the way, or to be more accurate, that the music and the culture that's grown up around the music would be a catalyst to other people to do something."

U2 incarnates what it is to think in terms of "us," in the band itself, in the U2 community, and in the wider world. In reflecting on the U2 community, The Edge typifies this attitude: "In the long run, I suspect that other people will end up doing far more than us, and that's an exciting idea."

Excerpted from Soul at Work: Spiritual Leadership in Organizations (Seabury Books, 2005) by Margaret Benefiel.

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Old 01-11-2006, 08:42 AM   #2
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Excellent article Mrs.Springsteen! Thank you for posting.

There is that community sense that I would associate with the Christian ideal of looking after your neighbor. But it isn't always pretty; in fact it's often very rough. Like do you care enough about someone to risk confronting them with the truth, if it is going to hurt them? That's love in action, real commitment to one another, real community, and it has nothing to do with being nice to everyone at all times.
These are powerful words from Edge. This goes to the heart of conflict among Christians and between Christians and the world.

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Old 01-13-2006, 05:38 PM   #3
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If anyone can give advice on how to give hard truth and be loving, I'd love to hear it.
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Old 01-15-2006, 10:19 PM   #4
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Wow. Cool article. Thanks, Mrs. Springsteen. You've been the source of some brilliant stuff lately.
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Old 01-21-2006, 07:19 PM   #5
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Here is the original article:

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Old 01-22-2006, 07:59 AM   #6
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that's the one I posted

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