Amy — Thank you

Sipping on my Scotch after watching Amy Winehouse’s documentary on Prime and listening to her music on Spotify for the past several hours, I am reminded of how important it is to always dig for the story behind the facade. People are not gossip, breaking news, or first impressions — they are complex, intertwined, beautiful messes, unique in their gifts and daemons, each giving something in their very own way.

I have often seen and shared the unattributed quote “Be generous for everybody you meet is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about” on social media. A fuller version of that quote I recently googled gives me goosebumps, for I relate to is so very much:

This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.” [John Watson, The Homely Virtues, 1903]

I bawled my eyes out watching Amy. Several times. I rarely listened to her music before; felt no emotion at her loss in the past; and never gave her tumultuous life a second thought. Watching the documentary, I had to quickly come to appreciate what an incredible and lasting musical contribution Ms Winehouse left us. Appreciate the depth of her talent and chaotic, energetic, high impact lifestyle. The depth of her love. And feel tremendously saddened for her inevitable, sudden departure. Feel saddened for what the world lost.

But probably the most powerful thought crossing my mind was how deeply sorry I was for having judged her in the past. For having fallen victim to gossip and media and jealousy and hatred. For distinctly remembering having judged her in a conversation with friends or parents years ago and dismissing her as a “just another druggie” at the time of her death. For falling prey to the herd mentality, without critically judging the data and my perceptions. And most importantly, for not simply respecting her for being human; for having been through her very own battles and daemons; for having created something for the world to remember and having moved on too soon.

It is a powerful lesson I want to keep bringing back to my own pursuit of inspired, people-centric leadership. Our people are our most important, most powerful, most valuable resource as leaders. They deserve our respect and support. They deserve to be shown a truly inspiring vision and given the opportunity to succeed in every way possible. They deserve to be treated as humans; imperfect, flawed, individuals who have traveled their very own journey, fought battles; employees who want to succeed and need the latitude to fail, learn, and eventually do better than we ever imagined.

Only by truly accepting diversity of backgrounds, opinions, and desires and working tirelessly as leaders to coalesce that diversity into forward momentum can we create greatness by harnessing each individual’s unique gift.