The Leadership Lesson In A Song: You Can Be Your Own Worst Enemy

Leadership Lesson: Whether from a song or not, in order to learn from others’ experiences, make sure to listen to both the subtle and overt messages and understand what you hear and see in the words of others. 

You know how when someone points something out to you you hadn’t previously recognized or noticed, you tend to see it again? You tend to see it in places you wouldn’t have expected, even in your everyday routine and environments, like it was there all along, and someone just had to open you up to it.

That’s how I’ve been with leadership since first learning about it – really learning about it. 

Someone – most likely an instructor – probably pointed out some lesson about leadership, or referred to it in a different way, maybe through their own interpretation, painting it in such a fashion that made sense to me, moving me to want to learn and understand more about it. 

And since that initiation (of sorts), I’ve been committed – no, I wouldn’t say “obsessed,” although it may seem like that sometimes – to leadership and how it’s utilized in the world.  

I see it everywhere. On TV shows, in movies, in public, at my kid’s daycare between the kids. Everywhere. Aside from the clear-cut, traditional leadership examples, I see its beginnings – or deterioration — in subtle behaviors, comments, opportunities, infractions, tones, body posturing. I mean everywhere.

There are so many things that could be interpreted into a leadership lesson — and they don’t necessarily play out in a expected leadership structure. 

Here’s one peculiar example: songs. 

Song lyrics. The story sung to music, which can be infused with happiness, sadness, or a relaxing neutrality. They are born of different experiences, sharing different messages and coming in different forms and expressions. In so many songs, their drive, passion, and urgency is almost palpable.

One such case is the song Falling by the band Staind. 

I’ve heard this song, at this point, hundreds of time. I love everything about it – the guitar, the rhythms, tempo. Everything about it. It’s such a great song. 

What stands out especially, though, are the words of the lyrics and the urgency in the message. 

Here’s a video of the song with the lyrics for you to follow along.

Obviously, it is heavier music, so it doesn’t suit everyone’s taste. If that’s the case, skip to below the video, where I’ll break down some of its lesson-teaching lyrics as they apply to leadership and personal development. 

If you are game for the video, catch a view, take a listen, follow the words, and read on below afterwards, so I can explain my quirky observation. 

Welcome back! 

Um….at least, I hope you’re back.

Let me make sense of this little experiment I’m exposing you to.

Here, I’ll break down some stanzas of the song’s lyrics and how they tie into personal, professional, and leadership development.  

Remember, the development in each of those areas is very similar. Yes, the specifics are different, but the general approach and considerations are very similar systematically. The way you break down your personal life, your professional life, and your leadership carry the same developmental undertones and structure.  It’s all about constant study, assessment, and improvement. Each of those areas needs this kind of review in order to evolve.

Better consideration leads to better process, leading to better results, both for you and for those around you. 

In any case, let’s get to the lyrics. There are four stanzas I want to cover. 

The First Stanza

You in your shell
Are you waiting for someone to rescue you
From yourself
Don’t be disappointed when no one comes

What I want you to take away from this is to consider whether or not you’re waiting for someone to solve your problems. Are you waiting on someone to help you in whatever your issue is?  

In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with that. If we can get help with something from someone, that’s amazing. It helps us out in moving forward. 

But overdependence on that external help can paralyze us and lead us to falling behind in whatever it is we want to achieve and want for ourselves. 

Whether or not we understand this progression to an undesirable consequence will dictate whether or not we’ll be “disappointed when no one comes.”

The Second Stanza

I already told you that falling is easy
It’s getting back up that becomes the problem
If you don’t believe you can find a way out
You become the problem

First, this chorus paints the picture we’re all too familiar with – failing and being unsuccessful are easier in the dichotomy of success or “failure,” because generally it takes work to succeed and be successful, where it can take no effort whatsoever to “fail,” or not be successful. 

We should hold admiration for others when we see how much they’ve missed the mark and yet still have the drive and fortitude to get back up and move forward toward what they wanted. 

Related Newsletter: How Much Grit Do You Have For Your Obstacles?

Second, it speaks to self-inflicted toxicity. If you don’t believe in yourself, nothing will happen. You are your own problem if you’ve given up on yourself, becoming your biggest perpetrator through your inaction. 

The Third Stanza

You all alone
Are you waiting for someone to make you whole
Can’t you see
Aren’t you tired of this dysfunctional routine

First, aside from believing someone should fix your problem – as covered in the first stanza — are you waiting for someone to complete you? Or, to put it another way, do you believe you are incomplete without someone else?

We all need others in our lives, whether it’s through friendship, romance, or family. But we should work toward feeling complete for ourselves, not becoming too dependent on others. That self-sufficiency in seeking our own happiness, before anything else, is where true happiness is found. 

Second, the dysfunctional routine. Insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. This is, in other words, something that doesn’t work. Its function is broken. It’s dysfunctional. And yet we tend to gravitate to the same old habits, generally, because they are what is known and familiar. 

Too many people stay on the treadmill of bad habits and tolerations, never advancing when it comes to various areas of their lives. How are you breaking the mold to ensure you’re reviewing what’s happening and striving to repeat the steps, behaviors, and habits which yield you the best return on investment on your life, energy, time, etc.? 

The Final Stanza

And if you believe you can find a way out
Then you’ve solved the problem

This sentence is the most powerful set of words in the song and bears repeating:

…And if you believe you can find a way out, then you’ve solved the problem… 

This line is great because it doesn’t say you’ve solved the problem when it’s solved, tidied up and resolved. It notes that when you believe you can find a way out, that’s when you’ve solved the problem. You don’t even have a definitive path to take to fix things, but you have a belief about which way you can go and what may be possible. You’re not sitting there, waiting for something or someone else to intervene. You’re taking it upon yourself to look for the resolution. 

There you have it.  A lesson in leadership in the unlikeliest of forms.  

So, again, the stanza lessons are:

First Stanza: Don’t wait for anyone else to come help you get what you need. And don’t be mad when no one comes through for you. Get going on your own.

Second Stanza: Kind of the obvious: Letting things fall apart is easy, but building them up is where the work exists. To put it bluntly: If you give up, you’re the issue. Plain and simple.

Third Stanza: Work toward feeling complete in yourself, and do not wait on others to be that piece for you. Don’t be insane, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

Fourth Stanza: Even believing you’re capable of fixing where you are – the desire to fight and find something, taking some chances – is a step in the direction of victory.

And, yes, again, none of this says anything about leading anyone.  But without knowing what you’re doing right yourself, you’re not going to provide value to anyone else – or, at least, not as much value as you could. So it’s a foundational leadership lesson.

Related: The Strongest Aspect Of Leadership is Not About Them. It’s About You!

It’s a good thing the chorus repeats so often, as it’s a lesson we need to hear over and over again, until we put ourselves on the right path to our own success. 

You can probably do this with your favorite songs, finding some kind of structure to apply to your progress moving forward. This is the one that stands out for me.  

Next up in my review of artists: Brian Adams. Stay tuned.

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