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  • Writer's pictureDavid Tong

Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown – supporting leaders through change

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

The title of Stormzy’s latest album paraphrases a speech from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 2 which articulates the heavy burden carried by those charged with major responsibility.

Stormzy’s lyrics make clear the difficulty he sometimes feels in his role as a generational spokesperson - and his story has wider lessons for business.

Doing things differently and using his position to set an agenda has propelled Stormzy to stardom, but more than that he has become a leader and role model. Establishing a scholarship fund for black students at Cambridge University and launching a publishing imprint with Penguin to showcase new writing from underrepresented voices has set him apart. Cambridge describe him as a ‘relatable character’ – a persuasive and humble advocate for his initiatives.

Listening to his album and reading about the person behind it I felt there may be some lessons for business leaders in his story. His creativity and endeavours in education, personal development and surfacing unheard voices perhaps point to some of the cornerstones of new, agile leadership models.

The traditional leadership virtues of controlling, planning and directing no longer appear to be sufficient. Digital innovation means that businesses are changing so radically and rapidly that greater organisational agility is essential, and this requires new ways of leading.

This is all set out in the McKinsey report ’Leading Agile Transformation: the new capabilities leaders need to build 21st-centrury organizations’. They argue that leaders need to:

  • Adopt new personal mind-sets and behaviors – from a reactive to a creative emphasis

  • Learn to help teams work in new ways – establishing networks of small empowered teams

  • Learn how to build enterprise agility into the design and culture of the whole organisation

McKinsey’s detailed prescriptions are contained in their report. But as I read it, I was struck that as helpful as this report is, this kind of cultural shift - where leaders, like Stormzy, become enablers for talent - is an incredibly hard one for individuals to make, especially those long schooled in the traditional model.

Knowing how you want to change is only part of the story. To develop the personal tone, the focus and the long-term persistence to convince your organisation that things are going to be different requires support. This may come from colleagues, but it is also support that a coach can provide - a confidential voice that keeps you on track, gives you a safe space to play with new ideas. Ultimately a coach is there to help to lighten that leadership load.

If these ideas interest you please call me on 07768 822298 or you can reach me at

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