Metaphors for leadership can be compelling. Sport is a key one (the subject of a previous post) and recently I got to play with the metaphor of music, with a group whose leader is a jazz fan.
Frank Barrett, who wrote on the topic of leadership lessons from jazz, gives us an overview, in this HBR idea cast.
Jazz, as in life and in organisations, is where we are faced with numerous possibilities, incomplete information and yet we have to take action anyway. This group I was working with, with its far reaching and complex mandate were a case in point.
Drawing on Barrett’s lessons, the metaphor offered us the possibility to explore:
- saying “yes to the mess”: to embrace an improvisational mindset and go ahead despite the ambiguity.
- building on others' ideas: the power of ‘yes and’ (a subject of another posting)
- taking turns soloing and supporting. There are times when we have to let others shine!
- noticing when the things we have learnt in the past get in the way of experimenting and learning from mistakes in the present
- creating structure in order to allow for flexibility in the moment.
One of my favourite bands is New Zealand's 7 piece Fat Freddy’s Drop. They have been described as one, or a combination of styles: jazz, reggae, soul, rhythm and blues, techno, dub, and gained popularity by their improvised live performances.
Amongst other things, they seem to be pretty good ‘yes to the mess’ role models.
Here they are doing their thing in Berlin: Willowtree
Frank Barrett. The book is Yes to the Mess-- Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz, from Harvard Business Review Press. http://blogs.hbr.org/ideacast/2012/08/what-leaders-can-learn-from-ja.html
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