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Keith Don’t Go

Optimize Blog - October 28, 2010 - 0 comments

The aging rocker Keith Richards is currently in the spotlight with the launch of his newly released and perhaps somewhat controversial autobiography. The Rolling Stones band member appears to be revered and disliked in equal measure, from those that think he is cool and the embodiment of the Rock’n’Roll superstar to those that feel he is way past his sell by date.
For most of us – love him or loath him – he continues to confound as a miracle of the tenacity of the human body to persist despite years of abuse. At 66 years of age Mr. Richards (‘Keef’ to many) continues to cultivate the image and persona with which we are all too familiar – he embodies the unconventional, rebellious, theatrical spirit that keeps music and particularly Rock interesting. Perhaps just another crowd-pleasing sex-drugs-and-rock’n’roll cliché or perhaps a clever character portrayal aimed at continuing to cultivate the music business financial phenomenon that is The Rolling Stones.
Whatever the reality, Mr. Richards has consistently received widespread critical acclaim for both his songwriting and his musicianship and songs such as “Angie”, “As Tears Go By” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together” continue to be played regularly and to a global audience.
At 66, he’s forced to publicly inhabit a cartoon of what people expect him to be beneath which a far more complex and calculating character can quietly manoeuvre. The reality is that Mr. Richards, when away from the studio and stage, is a somewhat different character – for example he is an avid (and well respected) book collector with a substantial and significant library.
And here is the lesson for us as leaders. Despite what we may want to be or despite what might come naturally to us, as leaders we need to constantly have our ‘game face’ on. We have to work hard at cultivating the image or persona as a leader but not at some superficial layer. We too have complexities of character beneath but as leaders we do have a role to play. There are certain expectations of us and we need to fulfill those expectations.
Remember that others take their lead from us. If we openly display our dissatisfaction, frustration or irritation at the latest corporate decision that we do not agree with, others will pick up on that and therefore we shouldn’t be surprised if our view is copied by the people within our teams.
Are we allowed to have a bad day – yes. Are we allowed to show it – no. Work hard at developing the uniform of leadership – metaphorically speaking and do not underestimate the impact that your moods or transparency might have on your teams.
If ‘Keef’ can uphold the persona for over 45 years, then as managers we should strive for the same although definitely without the use of artificial stimulants, cigarettes and alcohol. Our stimulants should be the people within our teams, their engagement and what they can achieve…

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