Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll

Leadership lessons from the Academy of Rock

By: Peter Cook


Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 234mm x 156mm
Pages : 224
ISBN : 9781845900168
Format: Paperback
Published: March 2006

Foreword by John Otway

At last, a book that cuts through the jargon of leadership and personal development. It offers a real world source of inspiration and provocation in areas such as: creativity, innovation, relationships, motivation, leadership, high performance, learning and reinvention. The unique approach springs from the mix of leading edge concepts with the wisdom of the street in the form of rock music. This is served up in a quirky, challenging but intelligent way.

Peter Cook has skilfully synthesised these diverse viewpoints due to his background, both as a business academic, MBA graduate and tutor, strategy consultant and thought leader and also as a musician, writing and performing music, in rock bands.

The book examines the issues using the analogy of ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll’ rather than the language of prophets, consultants and gurus. In this context, the letters MBA stand for Management By Attitude.

Let there be rock’n’roll leadership!

Picture for author Peter Cook

Peter Cook

Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock, a creativity and innovation consultancy with an enviable network of associates around the world. We facilitate strategy, creativity, innovation and change through bespoke consultancy, masterclasses, keynotes, training, coaching and mentoring. Author and contributor to 11 books, acclaimed by Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham, Harvey Goldsmith CBE and Tom Peters. Peter appears on BBC TV, Radio, Bloomberg TV, The FT, Independent et al. with his ideas. He won a prize for his work on leadership from Sir Richard Branson, is a writer for and works with Ted Coine's Open For Business speaker network. Peter has followed three concurrent passions over 30 years: science; business and music:

· Leading innovative Pharmaceutical Product Research and Development teams to bring multi-million dollar life saving drugs safely to the market, including the first treatments for AIDS, Herpes and the development of Human Insulin.

· Trouble-shooting businesses and starting up factories around the world in critical conditions where failure could hurt the enterprise considerably.

Click here to read Peter Cooks blog.

· Internal business, organisation development and change consultancy to introduce long-term change to business units and increase their innovation and creativity levels.

· Writing and tutoring for Business Schools at MBA level for blue chip companies around the world.

· Writing and performing music and speaking around the world on the parallels between business and the arts. Peter interviews a wide range of world-class musicians in this role including people connected with Prince, Eric Clapton, Ozzy Osbourne, Deep Purple, Bob Marley, Yes, AC / DC, Meatloaf and The Who.

Peter has an MBA, is a Chartered Chemist, FCIPD and an NLP Old Master. He is also an accomplished rock, pop and jazz musician, having performed alongside Bernie Tormé, John Otway, Wilko Johnson, Patti Russo, Meatloaf's long-term singing partner and songstress with Queen and Cher. Peter's keynotes and masterclasses can be accompanied by a roster of class A rock stars and session musicians.

Peter Cook Extras

FREE BOOK ' Punk Rock People Management - A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff.

Available free with copies of Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll by contacting the author In Punk Rock People Management. I have stripped down HR to the bare essentials for busy people and those who are sick of HR jargon getting in the way of running a business. In the punk spirit, each chapter is very short, so you can read one in less time than it takes to pogo to a Sex Pistols or Linkin Park song! Punk Rock PM is organised using the classic Life, Sex and Death HR cycle', in other words Hiring, Inspiring and Firing. To whet your appetite, chapter titles include:

- Selection - Shall I stay or shall I go?

- Engagement - Pretty vacant

- Conflict - Who killed Bambi?

If you have to get things done with people and can't get no satisfaction from an HR textbook, try Punk Rock PM for a refreshing difference.


  1. Fun, funky and focused - a heady combination that made for a great romping read. Using an eclectic range of musical metaphors, supported by real substance and underlying understanding of the issues at the heart of true dynamic and effective leadership, Peter Cook really brings this read to life.

    The eye catching, enticing title does not disappoint, nor does the aligning of Sex, Rock and Roll, and indeed music of many genres, with our experiences of Leadership in the business world: you will be stirred, engaged, enraged and indeed amused in different ways .

    Do not however underestimate the power of the message underlying the metaphor. There is meat behind the fun facade that makes this book a valuable addition for those looking to encourage a fresh look at business leadership - and to be able to -˜mosh' and thrash their -˜air guitars' at work legitimately! School of Rock Fans will love it.
  2. This is a very advanced book for traditionalists (those that work by the theory that what has always been must always be). Peter Cook takes the freedom of expression and creativity that comes through music, especially rock -˜n' roll and uses it to help creative people make their businesses work. Simply divided into three sections, prologue, dialogue and epilogue, crammed with examples of how music and business must come together, it's a book for those that -˜do' rather than those that talk about -˜doing'. If you like innovation, this is for you.
  3. Peter Cook's approach to the fundamentals of business management using a Rock and Roll model is hilariously practical.

    One of the major problems that I find as a lecturer is helping students find ways of remembering and, more importantly, applying appropriate management techniques.

    Peter Cook's book can bridge that gap by providing students with an up to date and relevant language of expression that uses musical idioms and practitioners that most students have heard of and can remember easily. The next step of linking the words and music to the appropriate business practices is made very much easier. The examples expressed in contemporary language will, I am sure, encourage students to use their new knowledge rather than tuck it away in their subconscious.

    This is a very readable and useful addition to the business bookshelf that I will be pleased to recommend to students.
  4. An intriguing title, so what does OUBS MBA Alumni Peter Cook's latest book Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll offer us, and how does this book differ from the many already published?

    There are forests of books on -˜leadership' from the dry academic treatise to the guru `one true way' tities. Many of these can give us some tips on how to be better managers or understand so-called -˜leadership competencies'. The question is: can they help us to be today's leaders rather than yesterday's managers?

    Now that the received wisdom of leadership has moved from the -˜great man' approach of the last century to the idea of 21st century leadership as -˜who I am rather than what I am' -leadership as a way of being rather than doing - it behoves us to think more creatively about leadership of self, teams and organisations. We know that we learn effectively through metaphor and fun and the title tempts us into a more creative way of thinking about how we lead effectively to deal with the complexity of modern business life.

    So this is where the Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll comes in, and it is deadly serious about ways of dealing with the real challenges for leaders and managers. Organised in three sections sex is about business relationships (the people and business partners), drugs is about motivation and leadership while rock'n'roll is about high performance. The book is designed to offer the referenced links between the traditional leadership literature and what Cook calls the -˜Academy of Rock' metaphor though music to bring this alive in an everyday context. As such the blend of the mainstream literature is brought alive with quotes from an eclectic mix of Einstein, The Beatles, Gareth Morgan, Nelson Mandela, Madonna, Tom Peters, David Bowie etc. To make things even more accessible, he includes key points sprinkled liberally throughout as practical tips on making a positive difference. In addition the mix of visual and written styles along with the soundtrack from the music titles acts as a springboard to help bring together the intellectual and emotional aspects of business so we can take a whole-brained, strategic approach to personal and business performance,

    Who wouldn't like the book?

    • The style may not be for everyone, particularly those who live in a world where leadership is positional or feel things should be as they were in the past.

    • Purists with a closed mindset about the one right way to do things.

    Why read the book?

    • it is an engaging read about issues in leading and managing which made me laugh in parts as the messages hit home. For Dilbert fans, this book is a must.

    • To enthuse yourself about practical possibilities in raising your game for you, your team and your organisation a While several of the areas will be familiar to those who have done an M BA or other management development programmes, this is about the implementation rather than the theory a It takes a fresh (accelerated learning) approach which gives permission to deal with the real issues facing people in organisations these days So, in summary, for those who are prepared to take a 21st century approach to running organisations and their part of an organisation, why wouldn't you want to read it?

  5. This is very unusual book. Peter Cook successfully relates lots of principles about business, leadership and management to music performance, and especially to many esoteric rock music stories, situations, general music industry dynamics.

    My time to review books is limited these days, but I happily made an exception in this case.

    The book is written in a fast-moving and amusing style - packed full of solid theories and techniques for effective modern business development, management, leadership, marketing, selling and customer care, at every turn brought to life through rock music analogies.

    The design of the layout cleverly offers a quick cartoon-style summary on each right page, to support the heavier text on each corresponding left page. It's a neat format.

    Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll is also a goldmine of spicey references for trainers and teachers, even though the strong rock music theming will appeal mostly to fans of the genre and by implication won't be everybody's bag.

    The references to John Otway's wonderful world tour private jet round the world party (Otway and Cook know each other and occasionally work together) are sadly for the time being not quite so powerful, given Otway's cancellation, or hopefully mere postponement of the extravaganza, nevertheless the main messages about being innovative, passionate, and shooting for the stars, still resonate loud and clear.

    This book is great because it contains all the sold theory, and it's powerfully different.

    For those of you who love rock music almost as much as your work, this is a super read and really unusual reference tool.
  6. Scan through the Leadership section in any bookstore and it doesn't take long to see a wide variety of inspiration: Military Strategists - confirmed bestsellers. Sports coaching - big business. Film and TV - growing in popularity. Rock -˜n' Roll? This could be a first.

    Peter Cook (not the deceased comedian), ex-senior manager in pharmaceuticals, holder of an MBA, consultant and musician, has sought to take his love of music and his experiences playing and performing, and package them as providing a fresh perspective on twenty-first century leadership.

    If this book was an album, there's one hit single that grabs you and, unfortunately, a collection of mediocre album tracks to pad it out.

    The book has taken rock's classic cliche and drawn parallels with what Cook sees as three vital components of leadership: -˜sex' is all about your relationships; -˜drugs' is about motivation (your natural high, as well as identifying what it is for those you lead); and -˜rock -˜n' roll' means attitude.

    Having established the -˜leadership is like rock -˜n' roll' analogy, Cook does hit on some really relevant points for business leaders. For example: -˜Musicians crucially understand the impact of atmosphere on performance' and -˜Who's playing the drums and bass in your business while all your stars are busy playing solos and smashing up their guitars?'

    In the same way that other business titles have attempted to innovate with the accompanying parable, the funky layout or the bonus web-based content, this publisher and author have played about with the structure. The left-hand pages contain the main text; the right-hand pages contain the pithy soundbites, quotes (both from musicians and business gurus) and illustrations. In practice, I found this makes for a difficult read - get to the bottom of the page and you want to continue the train of thought overleaf; but you don't want to miss the nugget on the opposite page. I ended up flipping through the whole of the right-hand -˜book' first and then read the left-hand side.

    As a big music fan that has spent some time with people in bands, I really liked the idea of this book. Early on I smiled on recognising the song titles dropped in as leadership lessons - 
    -˜It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it' - but torwards the end I found the analogy being stretched too far when Cook -attempted to explain Madonna and Bowie's periodic replacement of producers and backing bands as their key employees”.

    I was also cringing in a watching-your-dad-dance-at-your- eighteenth-birthday-party kind of way at a middle-age-”management consultant talking about Eminem as an innovator.

    The concept behind this book has sufficient really good material to make a great magazine feature, and I'd go and see Peter Cook speaking at a conference because he sounds like quite a character. The book itself would make a good gift item -for a colleague with an interest in music, or it would work as -an unusual primer on leadership for people new to a leadership role.

    Peter Cook might have a one-hit wonder on his hands, we'll have to see how he copes with the follow-up.
  7. Sex, Leadership and Rock 'n' Roll by Peter Cook is a management book that's truly different from the countless books of its genre. It provides an extraordinary musical insight into management techniques through a novel model of business management and leadership based on rock 'n' roll.

    At the book's heart is the premise that modern leadership can learn much from music and rock 'n' roll in particular. Easy to read, light-hearted and humerous. Cook's book offers the reader a new way of being a better manager.
  8. It sounds like an odd recipe for success. Peter Cook started life in pharmaceuticals, leading innovation teams to bring multimillion dollar drugs to market and international trouble shooting. He is now the Managing Director of Human Dynamics, offering strategy facilitation, coaching training, practical MBA programmes. Yet he has just written a book that uses one of the most self-destructive businesses as a metaphor for personal and corporate success. Yet he uses it to excellent effect. One aspect of business success is reinvention and learning. In one section of the book he compares this to leading brands like the Beatles that reinvented themselves several times in their career, or like Madonna who reinvented herself by changing members of her supporting cast. The lessons, Cook says, are simple. Learn to change rapidly by acquiring new skills and knowledge and dump what you don't need. It sounds a long way from some drunken rocker smashing up his hotel room, but then from chaos can come creation.
  9. Every once in a while a business book appears that inspires the reader to email friends and colleagues to go out and buy it - this is such a book. Make sure you start reading it at a time when you'll be able to get through the whole thing: it's a “can't put it down” book. Tom Peters comments on the cover “A brilliant, original, rockin', Rock'nRoll model of business management and leadership” and Peters is an apt comparison - this book has all the inspiration of Peters' books without the occasional tendency to bloat.

    Peter Cook is a business creativity consultant, and creativity oozes out of this book. We've commented before on business books that are just too long to be practically readable. Cook makes this book sing by using the text on the left hand pages follow a steady flow, while each right hand page is a side comment, an intervention, an expansion - it works superbly well.

    At the heart of the book is the contention that modern leadership has to be more like Rock'n'Roll. Historically we had a more orchestral style of management - clear direction from the top, a detailed score to follow and woe betide the player who strays from the written notes. Now that style will mean doom for an organization. In the past John Kao has suggested jazz as a metaphor for business creativity, but Cook points out that jazz is too sophisticated, too high falutin' for the majority. Rock'n'Roll allows for improvisation, but has more structure and commercial nous - it's a significantly better model, particularly when looking at business leadership.

    Perhaps the only aspect of the book that can be criticized is the tendency to use puns based on songs and titles - there's rather too much “as insert name of performer would say” - but that's a minor quibble.

    Cook's book isn't a recipe book - it's about setting a direction, not about giving you concrete instructions: “do this, this and this and your leadership will succeed”... but then good leadership can't be like that. If you take the lessons for this book your business is on the road to success. It'll probably be an unconventional road. It'll probably be fun. But hey, you can't have everything.
  10. Peter Cook provides an unusual musical insight into Leadership. Underpinning everything is “the relationship”, “the environment” and “the situation”. It's light, funny and offers new ways of understanding a complex subject. There will be those who will not agree with its style and others whose sensibilities will be upset by some of the controversial applied taboo subject matter. It will not fit all individuals or organisations but it makes an interesting contribution and certainly offers a more lateral and creative look on a subject matter that, at times, is perceived as fashionable but well worn.
  11. None would doubt that we live in a Rock -˜n' Roll Age-”so what makes more sense than a brilliant, original, rockin' Rock -˜n' Roll model of business management and leadership? Sex, Leadership and Rock -˜n' Roll is a marvelous book, which closes the door on the tidy, hierarchical, know-your-place -˜Orchestral Age' and ushers in a new, creative era of challenge and change. Hooray!
  12. None would doubt that we live in a Rock `n` Roll Age-”so what makes more
    sense than a brilliant, original, rockin` Rock `n` Roll model of
    business management and leadership? Sex, Leadership and Rock `n` Roll is
    a marvelous book, which closes the door on the tidy, hierarchical,
    know-your-place `Orchestral Age` and ushers in a new, creative era of
    challenge and change. Hooray!
  13. How do you take a group of 300 people on the most sexy Rock'n'Roll trip on
    the planet when you've got a quarter of a million pound hole in your
    budget? That is where this book comes in and thank goodness I've got

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