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:
- Kurt Cobain
- Brian Jones – a founding member of the Rolling Stones
- Jimi Hendrix
- Janis Joplin
- Jim Morrison
- 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.
- Act like irritating feedback is true. Now what will you do?
- Say, “Tell me more,” when you hear something you don’t like about yourself.
- 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.
I think he is on to something. We learn more by our mistakes, by listening to feedback, by viewing pictures of ourselves in how they have perceived us. I don’t mean that only the images of others are important; first comes our authentic selves, ready to grow and change. Then come the lessons that allow us to do that!
Thanks Elizabeth. The trouble with learning from failure is it often stings. In addition, it takes the rare quality of humility.
You idea that the intention for growth comes first is helpful. It makes learning from failure an opportunity, not a burden.
Such a sad story for Amy and the others.
She was a voice who wanted to be heard yet failed to hear her own warning.
The mind can be difficult to understand when altered by alcohol and chemicals, as modern medicine tells us.
Most song writers tell true life stories in their words, perhaps a message for us to find a better path, based on their mistakes.
May they rest in peace
Thanks Tim. I agree. I spent too much time reading up on Amy Winehouse. Her story is so compelling and sad. Have a great week.
I have reminded myself as well as those who work for/with me that, what defines you most often don’t manifest from times when things are going good or easy, but from those times when you are the most challenged. The worse manager you had you will never forget. Why? They teach you what you Do Not want to be.
Love the quote: Bill Gates said, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
Thanks Lyn. I couldn’t agree more. The dark days of our lives often form who we are and inform our purpose. Cheers
How do you get through to people who have serious blind spots?
They say the alcoholic needs to hit rock bottom before they are open to your message.
Look for teachable moments! People need to have a significant emotional event before they are open to your feedback.
Maybe finding creative ways to show them what they look like when they are operating in blind area helps you get through. (videotape the alcoholic when he/she is drunk)
Thanks Paul. There’s an interesting story about Paul McCartney meeting Amy Winehouse. He said that he wised he had run after and encourage her. He wanted her to feel supported. But…
Her dad said she all the support she needed.
No one was going to fix Amy until she was ready. It’s sad.
Perhaps not helping too soon helps people realize they need help. But that’s tough.
This stands out, ” It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Years ago one supervisor who had been a medic in Vietnam told me the struggles I was going thru regardless of how right I was were not life and death concerns. He said I should put context in my situation and look to the long run in all that I do. Going back in the way back machine to that East Coast Nuclear Plant I worked at in the 90s. A situation of disagreement with who I will call Mr. Trouble Maker from the corporate office occurred. We were right he was wrong but that did not matter. Over a period of 6 months that supervisor mentioned above had been transferred to Corporate, two replacement supervisors where transferred to other positions and I was transferred to another department. The writing was on the wall. I knew what was coming. On 11/16/95 at 530 PM I was summoned to the Plant Managers office and relieved of my position (not fired) and I could find my replacement position. The Plant Manager did this while looking at the floor. I said no problem I would turn over to someone from corporate and let everyone know the next morning in the plant morning meeting. So I had a choice that night to become bitter or better. You see my Chinese wife and our daughter, who we had adopted from China the year before, were in Taiwan waiting for me to join them on 11/23/95 and then onward to Changsha, Hunan Province to adopt our son. I prayed on what I would do and chose to be better and to think long term. I had only been relieved of a job not fired and our son waited in China. Getting him overruled any minor pain or inconvenience I was in. The next morning I went to the morning meeting explained the situation introduced my corporate replacement and then spent a week turning over to him. The plant rumor line had spread the news to everyone before the meeting, everyone knew what had happened and why and thought I had gotten the shaft and they were keyed into how I would respond. To a man and woman they were shocked when I was smiling and took the better road instead of the bitter road. Close friends (but not many others knew where I was going in a week). I left 11/23/95 to join my wife and daughter and we adopted my now 24 year old son Jason on 12/5/95. After a six week vacation (who someone kindly did not deduct from my days) I returned to the plant. I found out my better approach had pissed off Mr. Trouble Maker but impressed everyone else. My supervisor in the Electrical Design group I wrote about a few weeks ago sought me out said he had a position for me which I took. My failure in this effort was not really a failure but a short term and long term success because I chose to be better not bitter and took the long road in my view of the solution to this challenge. My 24 yr old Son Jason is now in college thriving as a positive challenge solver, brother, friend and colleague to many. I’d like to believe that my choice helped set up everything for him and his sister thereafter. 530 PM 11/16/95 was not a good experience but one of the best moments of my life. I rose up from the point because I focused on the long term.
Failing is not a bad thing. We do learn by our mistakes. I like the following:
FAIL First Attempt in Learning
FAIL Flawlessly Ascending in Life
FAIL Forever Acquiring Important Lessons
FAIL First Action In Learning
Great first words to grab on to when someone is criticizing me if I am too tongue tied to find a question. “Tell me more”……. I always appreciate the verbiage you give to help us apply the concept.
Indelible takeaway for leaders is her lytic “I can’t help you, if you can’t help yourself”
Except that Amys biography shows that she said she would go to rehab if her daddy said she should. But her dad said she didnt need to go, so she didnt.
It is very important to understand and accept critical feedback. It can help to look at yourself and your business from another side. But of course, it’s sometimes difficult to stay calm and not to reject such not always pleasant feedback.