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5 Lessons Rick Rubin Can Teach Us About Leadership

5 Lessons Rick Rubin Can Teach Us About Leadership

Rick Rubin is one of music’s most influential people. He’s produced some of the worlds greatest albums, saved the careers of flailing musicians and created two of the worlds most iconic brands.

Producing over 180 albums with an incredibly eclectic discography: from Neil Diamond to Slayer, Kanye West to Johnny Cash and System of Down to Run DMC. Chances are, you’re a Rick Rubin fan without even realising it.

But, being able to work with all these larger than life musicians at their most vulnerable state has given him a great insight in to being a leader. How to bring the best out of people, when they’re feeling their worst. To quote the late, great Johnny Cash, ‘I’ll always trust Rick because he believed in me, when I didn’t believe in myself.’

Here’s ‘X’ Lessons in Leadership we can learn from DJ Double RR, gleaned from his most recent interview with Zane Lowe:

1. Don’t Be Afraid To Take Risks

‘Every step of the way, people tried to talk me out of what I was going to do next’.

When he first took on the Rap Scene, after starting up Def Jam records from his dorm room – people said, ‘Why Rick? You’re into Punk!’, yet without that first step, artists like Run DMC and LL Cool J would never have changed the face of modern Hip-Hop. Then, at the time he was starting his American label, post all the rap success, people asked ‘Why would you want to sign a rock artist? You’ve had so much success with Rap’.

But he still went ahead and did it. Because, it felt right to him. It seemed the correct direction to go in order to push himself and his fans in the right direction.

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Without him taking those risks though, we would never have had iconic albums like ‘Californication’ by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, or Johnny Cash’s ‘American Recordings’.

Part of being a leader is trusting yourself and having the strength of resolve in the decisions you make. Not being scared of the unknown, or failing if you try. As a leader, it’s your job to pave the way for your followers and show them that risks are there to be taken – even when people say you’re stupid to do so.

2. Have A Clear Vision

Rick’s focus was always on the art, no matter what the label or the marketing teams said. His relationship with Russel Simmons was strained in the battle between Business and Artistic Merit – and Rick chose art every time.

Sales figures and pie charts have never meant much to him – all that mattered was that he could put out the best possible version of the CD for the fans to hear. His vision, whether working with someone at the start of their career, or coming to the end has always been the same, ‘It’s all about the music’.

And, every decision he makes has to fall in line with it.

As a leader you need to ask yourself, ‘Whats my vision?’. No matter what you want to lead in, you should have a clear view of where it is you’re going, or what you’re trying to achieve. Something to galvanise everyone that’s a part of it, so that you can work towards it.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Sir Ken Robinson wants to change Education. And Rick Rubin wants to create the best possible music.

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What’s your vision?

3. Know When To Change Course

Rick has been an avid risk taker throughout his career, but he’s also smart enough to know when something isn’t working out. As I mentioned before, his relationship with Russel Simmons was strained in the battle of Business over Music – so he confronted the problem and decided to leave Def Jam Records.

It wasn’t done out of malice or from a position of bad will, but because it was the right thing to do for their futures.

As a leader, it’s up to you to understand when a battle isn’t being won or when you’re energy is being expended too much in the wrong direction – and take a step away, or change the course of the problem.

You wouldn’t steer your car in to a tree on purpose, and you shouldn’t do it with yourself and those who follow you. Be big enough to understand when something is wrong and change the course.

 

4. Your Way Isn’t The Only Way

Rick’s way of producing has taken him to the top of his game and shown genres in a whole different light. But in his late twenties and early thirties, many relationships with artists broke down because he fought to make sure it was done his way.

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In his later years though, Rick stopped pushing his way on the artists, and started asking them what their way would be. Going through the band, taking their idea’s and going with the best idea that came along – even if it didn’t match up with his way in any way at all.

His results?

Better albums. Better relationships. Better ideas.

A leader’s aim is to facilitate the people they work with. To bring the best out of the resources they have to work with. Most of the time, your idea won’t be the strongest, or someone in your group will have a better suggestion. Put pride to one side, and listen to those around you – they have the answer you’re looking for.

5. Not Everybody Is Going To Like You

Rick may be one of the most revered music producers alive, but he isn’t without his critics. Corey Taylor of Slipknot is extremely Anti-Rick, even though he produced one of their greatest albums to date.

But, Rick takes it in his stride.

‘It’s strange, me and ‘The Clown’, the leader of the band, were so much on the same page – but the rest of the band, not so much.’

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Not everyone is going to love everything you do, every step you take or every decision you follow through on. You can be the best in the world at what it is that you do, but people still won’t like it. It’s impossible to please everybody and appeal to everyone on every level.

So stop trying.

A Leader knows who their followers are, what their vision is – and sticks to it. Regardless of whether it pleases people or not. As long as you can be proud of the outcome, and it’s done for the right reasons, nothing else matters.

 

 

Featured photo credit: Bryce Duffy via cdn.pastemagazine.com

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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