Paul Simon’s lyrics: Lessons in leadership

Renowned songwriter Paul Simon has gifted us with a plethora of memorable lines throughout his illustrious career, ranging from the haunting “hello darkness my old friend” to the enigmatic “people say she’s crazy, she’s got diamonds on the soles of her shoes.” Over nearly seven decades, his body of work has captivated many, including myself, often prompting deep reflection on the profound themes within his lyrics, which can offer valuable insights for leadership. Brace yourself for potential earworms!

In 1977, Simon released “Slip Slidin’ Away,” a poignant exploration of the human experience, delving into the sensation of nearing a goal only to find oneself slipping away from it. “You know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip slidin’ away.” This phenomenon resonates with many of us; we strive for something, only to feel disillusioned upon its attainment, grappling with feelings of inadequacy akin to imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome, a ubiquitous challenge, can afflict individuals at any stage of their career, indifferent to gender identity, income, or status. How then do we evade the slippery slope of “slip slidin’ away”? By acknowledging our strengths, challenging the deceitful inner voice, and confiding in trusted allies. Seeking guidance from a coach can also prove invaluable in navigating these treacherous waters.

The 1980s masterpiece “Graceland” offers a wealth of lessons, epitomized by its titular track, wherein Simon croons, “I’m going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee … Maybe I’ve a reason to believe we all will be received in Graceland.” This melodic ode to inclusion resonates deeply, reminding us of the fundamental principle that all are welcome. However, the recent addition of an eighth cooperative principle highlighting inclusion begs the question: Do we truly believe in the inclusivity of our credit union community? And if not, why?

Acknowledging the imperative for action, we, as leaders, must prioritize this crucial endeavor. It falls upon each of us who professes a commitment to the credit union movement to amplify the voices of our employees and members, actively champion inclusion, and sustain ongoing dialogue to foster an environment of genuine inclusivity.

Lastly, let’s reflect on the timeless wisdom of Paul Simon’s lyrics from “The Only Living Boy in New York” (1969): “I get the news I need on the weather report…” While simplicity reigns supreme in this advice, it offers profound perspective. Much like the weather forecast, which informs our daily decisions, we must recognize and embrace the aspects of our lives within our control, a fundamental tenet of effective leadership.

Please share your favorite Paul Simon lyric, as I am eager to explore the leadership insights derived from his vast repertoire. As we part ways, let us heed the enduring words of “Bridge Over Troubled Water“: “like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down…” Together, we can strive to be that steadfast bridge for ourselves, our colleagues, and the broader credit union movement.

I encourage you to engage Humanidei for coaching opportunities to address imposter syndrome, implement strategies for building a more inclusive workforce, and develop leadership talent. And—at any time, you can call me “Betty,” and I’ll happily call you “Al.”


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Tracie Kenyon

Tracie Kenyon

Tracie delights in helping people find their true potential and she’s passionate about credit unions. Her 38-year career has spanned four states, four credit unions, and two leagues; she ... Web: Details