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Heavy Metal with a Higher Purpose

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Key Lesson:  Great leadership is sometimes quiet and courageous.

Heavy metal music — and the bands who play it — are usually associated with anarchy, destruction and a certain brand of counter-culturism. In his new book, Dark Days: A Memoir, lead singer and lyricist Randy Blythe reveals an impressive set of core values that forces us to rethink any bias we might have about the character of heavy metal performers.

In June 2012, Blythe was arrested as he exited a plane in Prague and charged with manslaughter in connection with the 2010 death of Daniel Nosek. Nosek, a 19-year-old fan of Blythe’s band, Lamb of God, had died from injuries he sustained during one of the group’s concerts. The arrest — carried out by a SWAT team with machine guns and body armor — came as a total surprise to Blythe and his crew. Though bail was set almost immediately, the prosecutor in the case challenged that decision, forcing Blythe to spend the next 37 days incarcerated in a dilapidated 123-year-old prison. After his release, Blythe returned to America.

Given the terrifying nature of the arrest, the prolonged bail process and the seriousness of the charges, it’s safe to say that many of us would think twice about returning to the Czech Republic. Blythe apparently had no such thoughts:  “I decided I would rather die in prison — always a distinct possibility in the penal system — as a real man, than live free as a coward, because I was too damn scared to face an uncertain future in an effort to find out the truth…I still believe in, and try to live by a concept that is sadly almost lost, even ridiculed at times as anachronistic in our Western society — honor.”

Beyond that sense of honor, Blythe (who recalls the poorly managed concert, but has no recollection of the fatal incident) was also thinking about Nosek’s family and the pain they were feeling:  “I thought that perhaps if I went back to court, I could help them find some answers. As a father of a child who died…I know that pain. And these people had no answer.”  Blythe also noted that if he was guilty, then he should be punished. “I didn’t want to run from that, because I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror any other way,” he says.

In the end, Blythe was found morally responsible for Nosek’s death, though not legally guilty. “That’s something I have to live with for the rest of my life,” he recently told NPR’s Arun Rath. “I did make a critical mistake in this situation, and that is I should have stopped the show from the beginning.”

Randy Blythe is our Grounded Leader of the Week for breathing new life into our understanding of honor and courage, and for underscoring our collective need — and right — to know the truth.

The Healthy Leader

The Healthy Leader

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