Dirty Work

I am an unabashed and unapologetic fan of the Rolling Stones.  To celebrate the 50th anniversary of being The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band, it was seemingly predestined that I compose a post that extracts lessons of mindful leadership from the titles of some of the Glimmer Twins best collaborations (OK – so this is a stretch given the fractious history between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards but a blogger has to make a living here!).

On to the list…


You Can’t Always Get What You Want (“but if you try sometimes, you get what you need):

In one simple lyric, this song expresses initial hope, predictable disappointment and eventual resignation.  As I’ve written in a previous post, hope can falsely manipulate our perceptions of reality creating a false sense of optimism.

As leaders, we can certainly inspire hope but it must be synthesized with a commitment to the journey-process so that our focus stays on the task at hand. 

Without that focus on each moment that will collectively bring success, we don’t get what we need and what we want becomes a disappointing memory.


19th Nervous Breakdown (“I tried so hard to rearrange your mind; But after while I realized you were disarranging mine”):

This 1966 hit was one of three performed on the Ed Sullivan Show and tells the story of a spoiled girl who was unable to appreciate life.  The lyric points to Jagger’s very mindful realization that

no matter how hard we try to change others to meet our needs, we eventually learn that suffering will be borne from the inevitable failure. 

As leaders, we must be self-aware enough to realize that we must change ourselves in order for others to want to collaborate with us to find mutual success.


Beast of Burden (“I’ll never be your beast of burden; my back is broad but it’s a’ hurtin’):

This hit from Some Girls was primary written by Keith Richards as a thank you to Jagger for keeping the band going while Keith battled some personal demons.

Leaders, especially those in middle management, are under tremendous stress to not only lead the team toward the vision of the organization but also to assuage the concerns of each of the team’s members.

Without a mindful combination of emotional intelligence, vulnerability and transparency, today’s leaders cannot expect 360° support and will feel every ounce of the potential burden.


Blinded by Rainbows (“Did you ever touch the night; Did you ever count the cost; Do you hide away the fear; Put down paradise as lost.”):

This underrated antiwar song from Voodoo Lounge evoked Exile on Main St-esque melodies that brought many fans back after the Some Girls and Emotional Rescue phase.

Genuinely mindful leadership is always founded in ethics and a passion for doing the right thing.

Ever work for someone whose strategy was fixated on what “story” to tell the customer?  Continuously trying to keep track of what you told whom does not inspire others to, in the long run, follow you into battle.


(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (“Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try”):

Arguably the best song in the history of recorded music (ok – I’m getting a little carried away now but c’mon, it’s certainly in the conversation), is simply a song about the pressures, frustration and stress of the day.

So much has been written about how to mindfully manage our stressors as leaders but it remains the primary barrier to success for most. 

The response is a compilation of the aforementioned lyrical interpretations – we must be ever-present in our lives and strive to pay attention to whether our emotions catalyze dysfunctional reactions or mindful responses.

We could all do worse than to have the success that the Stones have earned over the last fifty years.  They have overcome strife and stressors that many of us will never know and yet their “team” has emerged fairly unscathed and, in one humble author’s opinion, better than ever.  And they keep on rolling…

For comprehensive training modules on leadership development topics such as this, please visit our Solutions page.



Mindful Follow-Up Questions

Whose music inspires you and why?

How do you use inspirational lyrics or writings with your team?

Are you able to carve out time for yourself to read or listen to music as a method to relax or inspire you?

If you wrote a song about your career as a leader, what would the title be?  (This is a good icebreaker, by the way)

Like the Rolling Stones, our careers go through phases that involve different challenges, opportunities and successes.  What are some of the methods you’ve used to persevere that you can pass along to potential leaders of the future?

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