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General Keef: A leadership lesson from the world’s most indestructible rock star

Source | LinkedIn : By Theodore Kinni

It’s Sept. 8, 2017 and the Rolling Stones are kicking off their “No Filter” European Tourtomorrow night in Hamburg, Germany. The opening act is Kaleo, an Icelandic band whose 4 members were all born in 1990. Hell, their parents probably weren’t born when the septuagenarian Stones started out in 1962.

The Stones have run hot and not-so-hot over the past 55 years. But they’ve had an amazingly long run, much of which lead guitarist Keith Richards covered in his rollicking memoir Life (Little, Brown, 2010).

Life is chock-full of inside stories. Like the one in which a very pissed-off Charlie Watts punched out a very wasted Mick Jagger for imperiously demanding to see “his drummer” at five in the morning.

Unexpectedly, the book also contains a terrific leadership lesson. It arrives in throwaway fashion early on. It’s 1960, and just as Richards turns 17, England abolishes National Service—its version of a compulsory draft.

“Suddenly you felt like you had two free years, but it was a complete illusion, of course,” remembers Richards. “You didn’t know what to do with it. Even your parents didn’t know what to do with those years, because they were expecting you to disappear at eighteen. It all happened so fast. My life had been plodding along nicely until I found out there was no National Service. There was no way I was going to get out of this goddamn morass, the council estate, the very small horizons.”

And then, Richards chucks out a hand grenade of a sentence. “Of course,” he says offhandedly, “if I’d done it, I’d probably be a general by now.” General Keith Richards of the British Army? General Keef? That seems like a bit of a stretch.

Not so, claims Richards. “There’s no way to stop a primate. If I’m in, I’m in,” he says. “When they got me in the scouts, I was a patrol leader in three months. I clearly like to run guys about. Give me a platoon, I’ll do a good job. Give me a company, I’ll do even better. Give me a division, and I’ll do wonders. I like to motivate guys, and that’s what came in handy with the Stones. I’m really good at pulling a bunch of guys together. If I can pull a bunch of useless Rastas into a viable band and also the Winos, a decidedly unruly band of men, I’ve got something there.”

Read on….

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