Leadership Lessons from Amy Winehouse and her Song Rehab

Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011. She was 27.

Other famous musicians died at 27:

  1. Kurt Cobain
  2. Brian Jones – a founding member of the Rolling Stones
  3. Jimi Hendrix
  4. Janis Joplin
  5. Jim Morrison
  6. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan – a founding member of the Grateful Dead.

(Screen Capture from Amy Winehouse performing Rehab.)

Amy’s blood-alcohol level was .416. A level of .35 is considered fatal. They found her with two large vodka bottles and one small vodka bottle, all empty.

Amy won five GRAMMYS on February 10, 2008, including Best New Artist as well as Record Of The Year for “Back to Black,” and Song Of The Year for “Rehab.”

“Because of her (Amy), I picked up a guitar, and because of her, I write my own songs,” Adele said. “The songs that I got signed with are the songs I wrote completely on my own. If it wasn’t for her, that wouldn’t have happened. I owe 90 percent of my career to her.” (Rolling Stone 9/16/2016)

She didn’t attend the GRAMMYS because the U.S. hadn’t approved her visa in time. Her application was denied at first due to public – and international  drug troubles. She was, for example, arrested for marijuana possession in Norway in October 2007.


They tried to make me go to rehab
I said, no, no, no
Yes, I been black
But when I come back, you’ll know, know, know
I ain’t got the time
And if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab
I won’t go, go, go

I don’t ever want to drink again
I just, oh, I just need a friend
I’m not gonna spend ten weeks
Have everyone think I’m on the mend

3 Leadership lessons from Amy Winehouse and her song Rehab

#1. Someday you’ll hear something that seems wrong, but it’s actually right.

Amy knew she had a drug and alcohol problem, but resisted – even resented – the people who pressured her to go to rehab.

#2. Someone is going to tell you something that makes you angry, thank them.

I’ve had leaders tell me, after the fact, that what I said irritated them. Useful feedback might rub you the wrong way.

The feedback you don’t want to hear might be the most important.

When someone tells you something about yourself that makes you mad, you’re hiding from something. Have you ever had someone tell you that you’re just like your mom or dad? If it frustrated you, there’s some truth to it.

Blindspots by definition are obvious to others, but obscure to you.

  1. Act like irritating feedback is true. Now what will you do?
  2. Say, “Tell me more,” when you hear something you don’t like about yourself.
  3. After receiving disconfirming feedback, ask, “What would be a better option?” Explore change.

#3. Success is a greater test than failure.

Struggle changes you. It’s your opportunity to grow, even if you hate it.

Success doesn’t change you. It shows you who you are. 

Bill Gates said, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

Perhaps the most dangerous effect of success is it blinds you to yourself.

What leadership lessons come out of the Amy Winehouse story or her music?

*I relax my 300 word limit on the weekends.