Iesha Small

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'That's not me' – leadership lessons from Skepta

What insights can leaders get from music – specifically Skepta’s grime anthem ‘That’s not me’ ? (547 words)

It’s half term for teachers right now so I’ve been in holiday mood. This holiday has been one of recharging and relaxation especially heightened by the fact that this time last year I was attempting to write our school timetable and most of the holiday was spent in my office at work.

Part of my relaxation has been to catch up with some recently released albums and dance around the kitchen to them with our kids. Namely, Beyonce’s Lemonade, Skepta’s Konnichiwa and Radiohead’s  A Moon shaped Pool. Much to the amusement of my colleagues and classes I am a big Grime fan and have been since it started in the early 2000s. Since I’m a big fan of authenticity, Skepta’s That’s not me (which made it onto Konniciwa but has actually been around for a while) really resonated. I’m not fully back into work mode so I thought I’d have a play with getting some leadership insights from it.

‘Act like a waste man, that’s not me.’

A waste man is a slang term for an idiot. Leader’s shouldn’t act like idiots. It’s a bad look. I recently interviewed an Assistant Head for book I’m writing. He said that one of his drivers for treating staff well was ‘I just didn’t want to be a dickhead’ – not sure if I’ll put that directly in or not but I do agree with him.

‘Yeah, I used to wear Gucci. Put it all in the bin cos that’s not me’

There was a time when I was younger when it was fashionable to wear really bright and ostentatious designer clothes, Gucci, Moschino, Versace.  We all looked a mess. Equally as a leader there are some things that everybody seems to do. We all do it because we don’t know any better and everybody has to start somewhere. There comes a point when we have to reevaluate things and decide whether they really fit with our ethos. I did that once when I decided that individual targets weren’t helpful for my specific context so I only set a group one which everybody had to contribute to. We got the best results that year.

‘I ain’t coming to fight like Jet Li’

Direct confrontation doesn’t (always) work. Not in terms of actually winning people over to an idea. It’s good to keep in mind the overall goal – to get the most out of people and achieve the best results- rather than to win a fight/argument.   Dale Carnegie echoes this in his book How to Win Friends and Influence people- “Let the other person save face. Nothing diminishes the dignity of a man quite like an insult to his pride. If we don’t condemn our employees in front of others and allow them to save face, they will be motivated to do better in the future and confident that they can.”

‘True, I used to look like you but dressing like a mess, nah that’s not me.’

Leaders are allowed to make mistakes and change their minds.  It’s not a big deal to acknowledge who you used to be and how you’ve changed. The key is to be aware of who you are now. Know your values and how they guide you professionally and be aware that leadership (and life in general) is a journey.




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'That's not me' – leadership lessons from Skepta