#6 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style

For the background of this list – see my original post from 2-10-12.

The #6 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style comes from Drake, making his first appearance on the countdown, straight out of Toronto.  The line actually comes from the Timbaland song that features Drake – Say Something. The line is:

“It’s funny how someone else’s success brings pain”

If you’re competitive, I mean really competitive, you might have felt this.  You’re working your tail off, only to see someone else have really good success, and it actually seems to hurt in your chest – like a burning feeling. It’s not that you wish ill towards the other person, or that you don’t even want them to have their own success – you probably do want them to be successful – but still there is that pain.

As a leader we have to be able to recognize this within our teams – that each and every one of our team wants success and they want each other to have success – but when some get it over others, many times those who don’t get it are going to have some frustration and pain.  It’s completely normal.  Many times we start believing these individuals aren’t “team players”, etc. because they don’t have a positive reaction to another teammates success.  So often I’ve seen this misdiagnosed!  It has nothing to do with how this one teammate feels about another teammates success – it has everything to do with how this individual is internalizing their own lack of success.

If we can understand this, help this person work through it to find their own success – many times you end up with an additional successful employee who is as engaged as ever.  I see organizations all the time ignore this, and the person takes off to another company and finds success there – when they could have stayed and found it where they were at.  Everyone in your organization is different – not everyone is going to see another person’s success as a huge positive.  It might be they feel, or have put, so much pressure on themselves to be successful – seeing someone else succeed just points our their own struggle.

Work with them – help them find their own success.  Don’t automatically take the easy approach of just believing everyone should be supportive and happy of everyone else – some of your best employees are your most competitive – and that competitive nature can do crazy stuff with your mind.  They’ll work through it – but they might just need a little help from you!

#7 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style

For the background of this list – see my original post from 2-10-12.

The #7 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style comes from 50 cent from his song “Outta Control” off his 2005 album The Massacre. This is 50’s 2nd appearance on the countdown (I’m sure he’s so excited!). There were actually two versions of this song – as it was re-released as a remix and that version was more popular. I got the lyric off the original version – because that’s how I roll. Here’s the lyric:

“Success is my drug of choice…”

We live in a society and culture fixated on gaining success, yet, most people don’t know the first thing about how to obtain success.  I think we all get our grandparents advice of “Success comes after hard work”, etc. – but no one really wants to believe that.  Being in HR for almost 20 years, people actions have led me to believe most hope to wake up and have success magically appear!

I’m one who thinks that success really isn’t that hard to obtain, but it takes two important things: Talent and Persistence.  Here’s why.  Success doesn’t happen to those you are untalented, they might get “lucky” in the short-term, but in the long-term their lack of talent will eventually show up.  Also, sometimes being talented just isn’t enough – you need to be in the right place at the right time, for your talents to be shown and recognized.  That is why persistence is a key to success.  You might have the talent and never be successful, because you weren’t persistent enough to allow your talent to become a success.

Success is my drug of choice, because I think it’s the single most factor in sustaining engagement.  Most one wants to work or play for a loser – long term.  As leaders it’s our job to help direct and create small successes for our teams.  Those small successes will lead to sustained long term successes – which leads to a very engaged team.  Easier said than done – but I do believe all leaders have the ability to create these small successes and highlight them to the organization.

#8 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style

For the background of this list – see my original post from 2-10-12.

Tupac Shakur kicked off our countdown at #25 and he’s back in the Top 10 with his hit song Keep Ya Head Up off his 1993 album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.  This song is great and includes a sample from the song Zapp and Roger’s “Be Alright”, which gives it a classic R&B feel – 2Pac was great at doing this in his songs.   The Lyric:

“Forgive but don’t forget”

This is really one of the quintessential elements of leadership – being able to forgive and move on.  To often I’ve been around managers who are unwilling to forgive, or unable to move on past an issue – and ultimately it hurts how they are viewed as a leader.   Also, I see people who believe that when you forgive someone, that you should also forget what they did – that’s just naive.   Like Chris Rock said – when McDonalds hires a former crackhead, they don’t allow them by the happy meals! (well he almost said that)

The one thing in business that is a certain, is that everyone is going to make mistakes – it happens all the time.  So, as a leader, your ability to forgive and move is paramount to the success of your business.  But you must also have the ability to not forget and put yourself in the same situation over and over.  I believe in second chances – but not third and fourth chances.  Once you screw it up twice, you’ve just established a pattern – if I, as the leader, allow that to happen a third time – I’m just a bad leader.

As a leader you must also be able to move on and not hold someone’s mistake against them.  If you can’t, do them a favor and let them go – it does them no good to work under your inability to move past a mistake – you’re just holding them and your company back.  Give them a gift and let them go blossom somewhere else.  I can’t tell you how many employee calibrations I’ve been in with leadership when a manager will bring up something one of their employees did 3 years ago, but they’ve been great ever since – but they are unwilling to let it go and allow them to rise above it.  You’re not protecting the company, you’re establishing a culture where your employees understand every mistake they make will be held over their heads for eternity.


#9 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style

For the background of this list – see my original post from 2-10-12.

The #9 Rap Lyric that shaped my leadership style comes from the rap group Outkast, which consists of Andre’ 3000 and Big Boi, and the song “Unhappy” which is off their 2003 album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.  The lyric:

“True happiness is not acquired and you won’t find it on sale.”

I’ve written recently about my thoughts on the idea of “doing what you’re passionate about” – which I think is mostly fools gold in terms of valuable advice.  To me, this runs right into the concept of happiness.  Happiness is a personal decision – there are great examples in our history of people making a conscience decision to be happy, under horrific circumstances (Just read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and his experiences in Holocaust for one example).

It is possible to decide on being happy, but it just doesn’t magically happen, and it has nothing to do with what you have, or what position you have.

I give out the following advice, every time someone comes to me and they are contemplating leaving their current position for a new position:

1. Are you happy in your current position?

2. Are you making enough money to pay your bills and save a little?

3. If yes, to questions 1 and 2 – stay where you’re at.

To often I see people chasing happiness like it’s a finish line, only to find out they still aren’t happy when they reach their end result (salary level, position level, location, etc.).   I was once in this race – so I know firsthand.  It’s like my grandparents use to say “You can’t buy happiness”, every time I wanted a new toy – thinking it would make me as happy as can be.

As a leader you need to be aware and recognize your people chasing down what they think is happiness.  You can help them learn that true happiness can be obtained, but you need to work for it.  I’ve found people are happiest when they are accomplishing things, when they are doing things for others, when those things are recognized and appreciated.  Those things have nothing to do with money or position level – they have everything to do with being about something bigger than yourself.

#10 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style

For the background of this list – see my original post from 2-10-12.

Hey, we made it – the Top 10 – if you’ve stuck with me this long – Thank you.

My #10 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style comes from Mos Def and Talib Kweli’s 1998 album Black Star and from the song K.O.S. Determination. The actual line is rapped by Talib (but I love me some Mos Def!).  Here’s the line:

”At exactly which point do you start to realize, that life without knowledge is death in disguise”

The one thing I’ve always done my entire career – is to keep learning.  After graduating with my undergrad I went back and got my Master’s in HR on nights and weekends.  After getting my master’s I went after my SPHR, which I’ve continued to hold and re-certify since 2001.  3 years ago I started blogging and found it actually forced me to research what I was writing about, and gain a better understanding of so many more things in HR that I never would have looked into personally.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Outliers – he explains his 10,000 hour rule.  Which basically is, if you want to “master” a subject or skill you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice.  That’s like 3 hours per day for 10 years.  But in HR, I don’t think we need to be “master’s” – I’ll settle for “Expert” – let’s say 5,000 hours.  That’s doable right!?  We have roughly 40-50 years of working in our various careers – becoming an “expert” should not be hard – but you do have to make a concerted effort to get there.

It’s one thing I encourage and support within my team – continue to educate yourself and get better.  If you’re a recruiter – be an expert recruiter. Read everything you can get your hands on – watch videos – attend seminars – create new sourcing methods.  If you’re a compensation pro – go after your CCP – then blow up your compensation model and make one that will put your organization in a competitive advantage.  Be an Expert.  You won’t get their without knowledge.

#11 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style

For the background of this list – see my original post from 2-10-12.

The #11 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style comes from Kool Moe Dee and was inspired on his song Death Blow from his 1991 album Funke, Funke Wisdom,  by none other than LL Cool J – who Kool Moe Dee had a long running Rap Feud.  Kool Moe Dee was the first rapper to ever perform at the Grammy Awards, but this album was probably his worst and signaled and end to his rap career.  With all of that – it still had some great lyrics, including this one on his song Death Blow:

“You’re young and dumb and quick with the tongue.”

One thing I’ve learned to appreciate over the past 20 years of my career – is patients.   At one time I was very young, dumb and way to quick with my thoughts.  I’ve had a handful of really great mentors over my career and they all had one very important trait that I’ve worked to learn from – the ability to listen, take in information, process it carefully and then, react appropriately.  Even when what they were being told – wasn’t something they wanted to hear or even agree with.

In every organization, as a leader, you are going to be put into positions that you will struggle to support fully.  Usually, if you have patience, you’ll be able to work through that gap between what the organization is requiring of you and how you can support it and truly believe in “it” as well.    The nice thing about being young, dumb and quick with the tongue – is that you grow up being able to recognize this trait in others!  So, I get plenty of reminders of how to keep this in check, slow down to go fast and react in a way that will eventually help the organization and keep me satisfied as a leader.


#12 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style

For the background of this list – see my original post from 2-10-12.

The #12 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style comes from the Nicki Minaj’s 2011 song Fly, featuring Rhianna.  Most white folks know Nicki Minaj, not from Rap, but from how her song Super Bass was sung by that little English girl on You Tube and got about 13 trillion hits:

Yeah it’s cute – screams stage Mom – but it got her on Ellen – what have you done in your life!?

They’re actually lyric I love from Nicki’s song Fly – the first is from hook and sung by Rhianna:

I came to win, to fight, to conquer, to thrive
I came to win, to survive, to prosper, to rise

But that isn’t Rap – so I also love this part by Nicki:

I hear the criticism loud and clear
That is how I know that the time is near
So we become alive in a time of fear

Unfortunately in leadership to many of us had this experience in the corporate world.  The vultures start circling, the private closed door meetings seem to happen more often and you start getting invited to less of them!  What’s very ironic to me, that I’ve witnessed during my HR career, is how people pick up their performance as soon as the criticism begins getting louder and they know the end is near.  If they would have just did this to begin with – they never would have been in this situation to begin with – and now it’s too late to really do anything about it.  The wheels have already been set in motion – your dead man/woman walking.

My advice – work every day like you’re about to get canned – because even though you tell yourself that your not, you really are only one mistake away from getting your walking papers (especially if you’re working in a large corporation).  That isn’t negativity or sour grapes – that’s a reality that we all try to suspend because the enormity of living in that situation would be miserable.  So most of us just ignore it.   And don’t be fooled – this isn’t just a large corporation problem – it can happen anywhere.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to work like you’re about to get fired – many will think it is – but I think it keeps your job in perspective.  How important is your job to you, really? I mean really?  If you come back saying – it’s right up there with my family and other beliefs – than treat it that way.  Too many of us take our job for granted – even after the most recent recession – and we shouldn’t.

#13 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style

For the background of this list – see my original post from 2-10-12.

The #13 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style comes from Kanye West.  For those who listen to Kanye – he has some great lyrics, but not many you would consider in terms of shaping your leadership philosophies!   But I persevered, digging day and night through his catalog to find one – for you – HR Rap fans – all 3 of you.   From Kayne’s 2003 The College Dropout album and song “All Falls Down” – here is the #13 Lyric:

“We all self conscious, I’m just the first to admit it”

I believe to be a great leader, you have to have great self insight.   To me the lyric represents this philosophy.   In fact, I’ll go as far to say that is the single most important trait to the individual success of any employee – having strong self insight.   This a primary factor I look at when hiring for my team.

Think about this for a second – the main problem we run into as leaders is understanding how to utilize the strengths and opportunities of those employees we are given to perform a function.   But we must also know our own strengths and opportunities to truly be effective in leading.  Without this understanding, I’m guessing it would be very hard to actually judge this of your team – mainly because if you lack self insight, your team will see through this immediately.  You will have no credibility, and your ability to lead effectively will be greatly diminished.

Am I self conscious?  I don’t think I’m “overly” self conscious, but I can admit, at times I can be self conscious.  I know which times those are, and I’m careful not to let those feelings cloud my judgement.  Great leaders have the ability to understand their own “self-filters” they put on themselves – and adjust their decision making accordingly.  No one is perfect on this and for most it takes years to really understand all your self imposed filters.

So, do you know what your filters are?  Have you asked others – or done a full 360 assessment with subordinates, peers and supervisors all involved in one sample?  Try it – it will scare the hell out of you and at the same time be the greatest personal learning you’ll ever have!

#14 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style

For the background of this list – see my original post from 2-10-12.

The #14 Rap Lyric that Shaped my Leadership Style comes from an artist making his second appearance on the countdown (feels like Casey Kasem doesn’t it! And now our long distance dedication from Kris in Birmingham to his life partner Lance in Seattle) – but his first where he’s the actual rapper (check out #24 – Eminem and Little Wayne’s No Love).  Eminem probably has the most commercially popular rap song of all time from his movie 8 Mile and the song “Lose Yourself” – 2002 Academy Award for Best Original Song, and 23 week consecutive weeks at #1 (a record for a rap song).

So, here’s the lyric – from the opening of the song:

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

Is there a white person alive that doesn’t have this on their iPod and they play it like 17 times while they are working out!?   The baseline alone from this song single-handedly got people to buy crappy Chrysler cars again!    That’s a very powerful song!

I think we don’t do this enough – live on that edge of making it or not making it – too many of us play it safe.  I can’t tell you how many people I know who stay in corporate jobs because they view them as “safe” – that have had opportunities to truly do something amazing, but they don’t.  I lived this life – so I know what I’m talking about.  We are HR Pros – safe is good – not knowing for sure  is scary and bad.  I get it!

I’m envious of those people who can throw caution to the wind and make that Leap.  I do think we (corporate HR drones) can find our balance to reach out for our opportunities inside of our organizations.  I call these “Must Do Moves!”   Everyday in our organization there are things we “have” to do – which means we really don’t have to do them, the doors will open again tomorrow at the corporate headquarters if we don’t – but if we do, just maybe some fantastic change will happen in our organizations.  We need to do more “Must Dos!” It’s good for your soul.  You’ll won’t lose your house. You might find that satisfaction you’ve been searching for in your job.

Enjoy the listen  – it gets me pumped up every time I hear it!

#15 Rap Lyric That Shaped My Leadership Style

For the background of this list – see my original post from 2-10-12.

This week’s Rap Lyric comes from Eminem protege Curtis James Jackson III, or as he’s more popularly known – 50 Cent (or do you write that as $.50) off his 2005 album The Massacre.  50 Cent became the first artist in Billboard history to have 3 Singles in the Top 5 at one time with this album – but not one of those 3 gave us this weeks Lyric!   From his song – In My Hood, here is the Lyric:

“Now you can be a victim, or you can lock and load.”

The concept of “being a victim” has shaped my leadership perspective in an enormous way.  If you haven’t got a chance to read the book “The Oz Principle” you need to – it’s a heavy read – but I ensure you will not be a victim ever again, in business, after reading it!

So what does “being a victim” mean in business?

Being stuck in the “victim cycle” or “being a victim” really means you’re stuck in the blame game.  “I’m not successful because my boss doesn’t allow me to me.”  “I can’t finish the project because I don’t have enough resources.”  “I can’t do my work because other people don’t do their work.” Etc.   To rise above this victim cycle means to take control of your destiny – you see it, you own it, you solve it, you do it.  No excuses, no blame, no finger-pointing.

In HR it’s so easy on a daily basis to be a “victim”.   “Well, we don’t control that decision” or “They won’t give us the budget to do it the “right” way.”   We are given so many outs each and every day – to make it not be our fault.  But our organizations and our employees need for us to set an example that is different.  One that says – “It doesn’t matter – we’ll make it work anyway” or “I’ve got your back, we can do this!”  It’s not easy and I’m the first to admit I can’t do it every day, every time – but I sure try.

I surround myself with non-victims – it’s who I want on my team.  I don’t want to here – “I can’t” – I want to hear “I can”.  You can do anything in business when you have people who all support each other, want the best for each other and have a belief that no matter what – we’ll get it done.  That’s my team.