Punk Rock Leadership: Simple & Authentic

By J. William DeMarco


I hate to admit this, but the other day I was in the gym and a song by Katy Perry came on…”The One that Got Away.” Now, I am NOT a fan (it was forced on me…I was in the gym), but there is a line in the song…”…us against the world.”

What is the fascination with that? For how long have we thought of going up against the world? I have to think it is all about trashing the status quo–maybe that is the punk in me, but the status quo sucks.

The first wave of punk rock aimed to be aggressively modern, distancing itself from the bombast and sentimentality of early 1970s rock a.k.a the status quo. According to Ramones drummer Tommy Ramone, “In its initial form, a lot of [1960s] stuff was innovative and exciting. Unfortunately, what happens is that people who could not hold a candle to the likes of Hendrix started noodling away. Soon you had endless solos that went nowhere. By 1973, I knew that what was needed was some pure, stripped down, no bull$h^% rock ‘n’ roll.”

A few years ago we had a going away gathering at RAF Mildenhall with a Celtic, Punk Luau theme…at the end I attempted to explain…well the luau was just a catch all (not everyone had a kilt), but the punk piece was a bit easier. I have always fought against the status quo–it is so boring and we can always do better…and if we are not getting better–what in the heck are we doing. Not to be boastful…but, in several positions–take the Bloody Hundredth we were reliable innovators, experts at efficiencies, effectiveness, we were a cult of leadership experts–deeply in love with our heritage and who did all of the above with incredible style! Let’s call it a culture.

Peter Cook posted this piece on his blog. “Punk Rock People Management” focuses on three facets of leadership that separate great practice from the herd:

  • Simplicity – Say it simple
  • Brevity – Say it short
  • Authenticity – Say what you mean and mean what you say

Understand…really I am a surfer/punk rocker at heart… this military gig just pays the bills…I used to listen to punk or alternative music when it was…well…alternative… Talking Heads, Violent Femmes, Ramones, The Clash. I understood music and surfing to be raw art that comes from your gut…same with my idea of leadership

Do it yourself

Strip it down

Bare Bones

Take away all fluff and hype…

Strip everything away and get down to the most basic elements… a group of individuals working for a common vision with a common goal, a clear strategy…. and being the best they can possibly be at it…

The more honest, the more raw… the more stripped down.. the more I think we get out of it…then again…maybe I am just a punk…

5 Replies to “Punk Rock Leadership: Simple & Authentic”

  1. Great phrase: reliable innovators!
    Great encouragement to keep it simple yet powerful.

  2. “…and we can always do better…and if we are not getting better–what in the heck are we doing.”

    Bill, this is the line that got (nay, grabbed) my attention as I read this article. Thank you for writing it, there are some things that “could” make someone think here!

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