Friday, May 19, 2006

Leadership Jazz

In his book, Leadership Jazz, Max de Pree, says: “I enjoy jazz and one way to think about leadership is to consider a jazz band leader. Jazz-band leaders must choose the music, find the right musicians and perform – in public.

But the effect of the performance depends on so many things—the environment, the [people] playing in the band, the need for everybody to perform as individuals and as a group, the absolute dependence of the leader on the members of the band, the need of the leaders for the followers to play well. That’s not a bad summary of an organization!

Jazz band leadership is an expression of servant leadership. For the leader of a jazz band has the opportunity to draw the best out of the other musicians. And jazz, like leadership, combines the unpredictability of the future with the gifts of individuals.”

Writing [p102-103] about how we might draw out the creativity of our staff, Max de Pree picks up his favourite image again and says, “Creative work needs the ethos of jazz….. A [Jazz] Leader will pick the tune, set the tempo, start the music and define a ‘style’.

After that it’s up to the band to be disciplined and free, wild and restrained, leaders and followers, focused and wide-ranging, playing the music for the audience and accountable to the requirements of the band.

Jazz-band leaders know how to integrate the voices in the band without diminishing their uniqueness. The individuals in the band are expected to play solo and together. What a wonderful way to think about leadership and working with others to create a vital community or productive organization!”

I wonder what image we might select that would typify the unique style to which we might aspire? Or what image might select us that will fire up our imagination and stimulate a fresh sense of urgency about our work with others?

Source: Max De Pree, Leadership Jazz (New York: Dell Publishing, 1992), 8-9, 102-3.

Image: Jazz Band