How to be a leader: Rap & Rock Climbing edition

You see there’s leaders.

And there’s followers.

But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower.

Those are the lyrics to Kanye West’s song New Slaves.


In other words, Kanye would rather be seen as a dick to some people and speak his truth, than have to bite his tongue and not say what’s on his mind.

Does this suit everybody?

No. It’s implied in the lyrics anyway.

Being a leader isn’t about pleasing everybody.

Being a leader takes courage. The courage to do things not everyone will agree with.

Not everyone agrees with Kanye West.

He’s loud.

He speaks his mind.

He has no filter.

But you can’t argue with his ability to perform. To do things others can’t.

Can you lead without being loud?

How about from the inside of a van?

I’m talking living 24/7 in a van, eating nothing but beans and vegetables. With chalk everywhere. On the carpet, on the bed, on the chairs.


Rock climbers use chalk to absorb the sweat on their hands and increase the friction on their holds. When you’re holding onto a ledge a couple of millimetres wide, sweaty hands are no good.

If you’ve ever used chalk, you know how easily it spreads everywhere.

Alex Honnold is a rock climber. His style is free solo. Free solo means without a rope or any assistance. None. Roll up to the base of the mountain and start climbing.


I needed chalk whilst I was watching Free Solo, the documentary detailing his journey to free soloing El Capitan.

The first time he tried, he pulled out 400ft in. There was a whole camera crew from National Geographic there and everything. Yet he made the call.

“I’m not feeling it.”

The majority of his free solos he’s done without telling anyone. He prefers it that way.

“What’s more important to me is making to the top, I don’t care if it’s filmed or not.”

I’m not going to ruin the rest of the documentary for you because I think you should watch it.

Alex is a leader.

But Kanye and Alex couldn’t be more different.

One climbs mountains without a rope and lives in a van. The other owns a fashion brand, a record label and writes songs.

Do you need to climb a mountain without a rope to be a leader?


Do you need to be multi-millionaire multi-award winning artist to excel in leadership?


The thing they both have in common is they do things others can’t.

They take on challenges others would say, I can’t believe he’s doing that.

Does it always work?


Leaders know this.

Then they show up and say, let’s find a way anyway.