Leadership Lessons From the Song, “Simple Man”

by | Jun 28, 2021 | Leadership

Like many people I love music. There is something powerful about the right lyrics with the right melody. Songs have the ability to inspire us, make us laugh or cry, and even transport us to another time and place. 

When I listen to music, I really focus on the lyrics. (This might be a result of not being very musically gifted myself.) But I really appreciate a song that has depth to its lyrics. And I’m always looking for great lessons in songs.

In my opinion, the song “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd has some powerful lyrics and in today’s post I’m sharing some of the leadership lessons I’ve gleaned from it. 


“Be a simple kind of man [or woman]. Oh be something you love and understand.”

The word “simple” has lots of different meanings. It can mean “lacking in knowledge or expertise.” But it can also mean “readily understood.” (Merriam Webster Dictionary) And I think that’s the definition that best fits the context of this song.

First, great leaders understand themselves. They have taken the time to become self-aware, knowing their strengths, weaknesses, and blindspots. As a result, they are content with who they see in the mirror. Not satisfied, because they recognize that they will never arrive and are always pushing themselves, but content with the progress they are making. 

Do you “love and understand” the person in the mirror?

Second, great leaders are understood by their team. Their leadership and demeanor are consistent. People know what to expect. In the book Strengths-Based Leadership, Tom Rath shares a Gallup study that found two of the top four qualities of exceptional leaders are trust and security.You can’t build trust and provide security without consistency


“Take your time, don’t live too fast.”

I’m not a fan of the word “busy.” One of the reasons why is because our society (at least here in the United States) wears this word like a badge of honor. (You can read more about my thoughts on busyness here: The Socially Acceptable Addiction.)

The problem with this mentality is that among other things it can lead to burnout and mental health issues. An Indeed study conducted at the beginning of 2021 found out that “burnout is on the rise. Over half (52%) of survey respondents are experiencing burnout in 2021—up from the 43% who said the same in Indeed’s pre-Covid-19 survey.” (You can read more about the results of this study here.)

Clearly, the pandemic has had a significant impact on workplace burnout. As I process and also talk to others about what we went through in 2020, especially during the “lockdown” season, the common theme I hear goes something like this, “I really appreciated the opportunity to slow down.” I talked to dads who would ride bikes with the kids on a Tuesday afternoon or couples who would go for walks in the middle of a workday. 

I’m not advocating that we go back to that time, but I do think there is a lesson in there. We can’t keep up the pace that busyness demands. We must intentionally fight it by strategically disconnecting and making time for the people and activities that are most important and bring us energy. 


“Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold.”

There’s nothing wrong with money. In fact, a study conducted earlier this year by The Wharton School found that “people’s well-being rises with the amount of money they make.” (You can read more about this study here.) But here’s the caveat, the key to enjoying money is contentment. 

Pursuing money for the sake of money or accumulation leads to discontentment. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with some wealthy people and the common theme is: it’s never enough. They are always worried that they need more. 

Money is a great by-product but a poor motivator or goal. Pursue excellent work, be a lifelong learner, and gain as much feedback and experience as possible. Then you will be able to enjoy whatever money comes your way. As Warren Buffett says, “When a person with money meets a person with experience, the one with experience ends up with the money and the one with money leaves with experience.” 


Game Plan

Which song lyric do you need to focus on the most? 

Do you struggle with self-awareness or a lack of consistency? Maybe you need to slow down and have a better work-life rhythm? Or perhaps you need to change your aim away from money and fame and to something more meaningful?

Think about one thing you can do tomorrow to begin growing and developing that area.


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