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360 The Rolling Stones Guide To Leadership

The Rolling Stones’ Guide to Leadership

Just assuming that great musical acts succeed by raw talent alone, a string of hits or a controlling manager would be wrong. Successful musical artists succeed over the long haul by having a leader. We know that Justin Timberlake is a mastermind businessman. Beyoncé’s new video album, Lemonade, is not only a creative breakthrough—it demonstrates a willingness to lead and innovate. These two leaders are creating a new way of doing business.


The late Glenn Frey was the CEO of the Eagles. He ran the band with Don Henley, but Glenn was the guy at the helm leading one of the most successful American rock bands in history. He led the Eagles with a strong hand, was able to get the most from each member, and held the group to the highest standards. Every performance mattered.


I read a great article in the Wall Street Journal by Rich Cohen that got me thinking about how great musical acts become and remain successful by having strong leaders. The WSJ article credits Keith Richards for differentiating the Stones from the Beatles by recognizing the Beatles had staked the high ground on the cute, lovable, nonthreatening boys next door. The Beatles were the “white hats,” so the Stones had no choice but to be the black hats. There was an opening in the market and they seized it.


As Cohen notes, the Stones also reinvented themselves time after time. From cover band, to 60s Pop, to 70s Groove to 80s New Wave. They finally ran out of steam, but their musical library is so exhaustive they are still selling out arenas even though Mick is now 72 (Mick and I share the same birthday, but thankfully not the same birth year).


“So what? What’s the implication?” you ask. The way I see it, no organization succeeds without a leader. We know IBM, Apple and Google need a leader. But so does a great high school drama department, so does a successful Boy Scout troop, so does the local charity, so does a wild, unruly, rebellious rock band … and so does your organization.


I can’t be reminded enough how important leadership is. Take a minute and ask yourself, “How am I leading my organization? What contribution am I making to my industry? How am I improving the quality of life for those with whom I work?” Anyone can be a boss. Leadership takes courage, love and vision. Every day presents a new opportunity to lead. People are counting on us.


Today is a great day to look at the leaders you admire and remind yourself that people are watching you. Give them something to admire.