What Eminem Can Teach You About Leadership

Love him or hate him – you have to admit Eminem is a creative and talented guy.  What’s interesting is you can learn a lot about leadership just by listening to his lyrics (if you can get past the f-bombs and other assorted provocative lyrics).

Today I’m going to share some lyrics from Eminem and offer some thoughts on how those concepts can be applied to your own personal leadership philosophy and style.  For those of you who have been readers for a while, you’ll recall I did something similar a while back in my Leadership: Metallica Style post.  Since that one was a hit, I figure doing something similar with Eminem lyrics can be provocative too.

I’d ask you to set aside judgment of the artist and instead open your mind to finding leadership in innovative places.  You might be surprised by what you can learn if you suspend bias and look for insight.  So here goes… let’s drop some bombs.

Without Me

Now this looks like a job for me

So everybody just follow me

Cuz we need a little controversy

Cuz it feels so empty without me

As a leader, when is the last time you stepped up and created some controversy?  Are you someone who agitates for and leads change or are you a status quo kinda person who doesn’t want to rock the boat?  Leadership is about getting out in front and showing people new ways of doing things.  Sometimes doing so makes you a pariah.  Sometimes you’ll fail.  Sometimes you’ll have wild success.  Such is the mantle of leadership.

Lose Yourself

If you had one shot, or one opportunity

To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment

Would you capture it… or just let it slip?

Leaders take risks – plain and simple.  We all know opportunities pass by every day.  The difference maker in all of that is whether you reach out and grab it and take the risk or if you play it safe and let it pass you by.  Is there a dream role you’ve ever taken or passed up?  How has that decision affected your life?  How do you force yourself to get off the dime and take action?  Is there an employee you’ve taken a risk on (or not taken one on)?  How did that choice work out?

Every day is filled with opportunities.  I challenge you to see them all around you and jump on the ones that give you a chance to make a difference.  If you find you’re hesitant to do so, maybe you need to improve your decision making skills or write a leadership maxim dedicated to taking action (which is Chapter 13 in One Piece of Paper for those of you who have already bought the book).


Let’s get down to business

I don’t got no time to play around, what is this

Must be a circus in town, let’s shut the $#!} down

On these clowns, can i get a witness?

Focus.  How often do you deal with clowns who create drama, distractions, and chaos?  Are you the type of leader who can sift through all that noise and get your team to focus?  Do you have a strong enough personality that you can shut down the nonsense quickly and directly so the team can get down to business?  Because that’s your job – focusing your team and helping them execute.  If you’re able to highlight what is core to the problem at hand and you can weed out the distractions, your team will be much more effective and productive.

Look – I know Eminem isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (and I know at least one of you reading this will criticize my inclusion of random symbols in place of an expletive but to that person I ask – have you ever sworn?  If so, don’t judge.).  I’m simply using his thoughts as a vehicle for teeing up a few points about taking risks, cutting through the B.S., and stepping up to create a little controversy in the interest of moving your business forward.

So go stir things up.  Make stuff happen.  That’s what they’re paying you for as a leader.

Last week, One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful Personal Leadership was released on Kindle (and the hard copy is now available for purchase). You can get your Kindle version here. The book will guide you through generating your own set of powerful leadership stories.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

– Get your copy of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership now

12 Responses to “What Eminem Can Teach You About Leadership”

  1. Brian Ahearn says:

    Very creative post Mike. I’ve never been an Eminen fan but had a lot of respect for the changes he’s made in his life recently when I saw a short documentary on him.

    What I like about your post is your ability to draw out learning points in a situation that most people would completely ignore. I have a friend who can do the same thing except that it’s the gift of seeing God in everyday circumstances.

    Keep up the great work and good luck with the new book sales.


  2. Michael McCullough says:

    Great post actually, I’m a little old for Eminem too he is clearly an astute business person and has lead an entire generation of people. He clearly knows how to inspire even if he did “blow college dorm rooms doors off the hinges, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, syringes, {vnn vnn}, yeah here I come, I’m inches, away from you, dear fear none, hip-hop is in a state of 911.”

  3. Peter Cook says:

    You will LOVE my books Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll and Punk Rock People Management Mike – Eminem gets a mention in the first one. Check them out on Amazon or via


  4. susan says:

    Very intresting Mike! Great points. Now tell me how to get the song “Without Me” out of my head. :))

  5. Great post. It is awesome how you related his lyrics to leadership. I especially agree with the Lose Yourself relation. It is very important to jump at opportunities to make a difference. Great Read!

  6. Love it Mike! I’m not a huge fan of his, but I do have Lose Yourself as the first song in my running playlist for that very quote. Very motivational (and not a bad beat to start off a run).
    Nice post!

  7. Kirana says:

    huh. never looked at the lyrics that way before. could be risky in a corporate setting though – even if the company says they want leaders who take risks and mistakes are ok, the reality is that the promotion system rewards the opposite behaviour. i find i’m more risk-averse now that i’m the primary breadwinner for my family.

  8. Hosting says:

    Eminem’s lyrics and productions are forever inspiring. And that’s why people listen and follow him. Becuase we’ve all got a little slim shady in us, fo sho.

    Anthony Lydick
    CEO Cyberneticos, Spain.

  9. Anneliese says:

    Drawing from my musical repertoire, another fave tune of his which I feel also conveys signs of leadership is ‘Like Toy Soldiers’.

    The opening lines of the first verse instantly came to mind when reading this post:

    “I’m supposed to be the soldier who never blows his composure
    Even though I hold the weight of the whole world on my shoulders
    I ain’t never supposed to show it, my crew ain’t supposed to know it
    I’d never drag them in battles that I can’t handle unless I absolutely have to, I’m supposed to set an example
    I need to be the leader, my crew looks for me to guide ’em”

    I think the first few lines stress the importance of image management from the standpoint of an individual who may be under a great deal of pressure, or who constantly has to cope with many conflicts/challenges yet still has to keep their head up and maintain their stature. That said, there’s a fine line between showing weakness and showing your vulnerable side. I think it’s important to keep a balance of both so as to exude both confidence, and humility. I don’t, however, entirely agree with how “[your] crew ain’t supposed to know it” since I think honesty and transparency are equally important factors when trying to boost morale.

    Pertaining to the latter lyrical excerpt, the age-old idiom warning us to not “bite off more than you can chew” fits in quite nicely, I would say. And of course, to cap it off, “leading by example” is crucial.

    As both an Eminem fan and someone who is constantly looking for ways to leverage her personal development, I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this. I’m hoping another similar post stemming from this one featuring a pop icon/boy band (perhaps?) is in the works! 🙂


    • Mike Figliuolo says:

      Great choice of lyrics! Wish I had thought of that. Thanks for sharing some great thoughts and thanks for being a reader.

  10. ask says:

    Fine way of describing, and nice piece of writing to
    obtain data concerning my presentation focus, which i am going to present
    in college.

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