How Jazz Can Teach Us to Lead Better in a Complex World
Leadership is not a simple matter of following a script or a plan. It requires improvisation, creativity, and collaboration. That's what jazz musicians do every time they play together. They invent novel responses, take calculated risks, and support each other's ideas. They say \"yes to the mess\" that is today's fast-paced and unpredictable world of work.
In his book Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz, Frank J. Barrett, a jazz pianist and a management scholar, shows how the principles of jazz thinking and jazz performance can help anyone who leads teams or works with them to develop these critical skills. He draws on fascinating stories of jazz greats such as Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, as well as his own experience as a jazz musician, to introduce a new model for leading and collaborating in organizations.
Barrett describes how, like skilled jazz players, leaders need to master the art of unlearning, perform and experiment simultaneously, and take turns soloing and supporting each other. He also illustrates how organizations can take an inventive approach to crisis management, economic volatility, and global challenges by applying the lessons of jazz improvisation.
Leaders today need to be expert improvisers. Yes to the Mess vividly shows how jazz can teach us to lead better in a complex world.
But how can we learn to improvise like jazz musicians Barrett suggests that we can start by adopting some of the practices and mindsets that jazz players use to create their music. Here are some of them:
Embrace errors as sources of learning. Jazz musicians don't let mistakes stop them from playing. They use them as opportunities to explore new possibilities and directions. They also learn from each other's errors and build on them. Leaders can do the same by creating a culture of learning from failure and encouraging experimentation and feedback.
Listen attentively and responsively. Jazz musicians listen to each other with full attention and respond to what they hear in the moment. They don't ignore or compete with each other. They complement and challenge each other. Leaders can do the same by listening to their team members, customers, and stakeholders with curiosity and empathy, and by adapting their actions and decisions accordingly.
Balance structure and freedom. Jazz musicians follow some basic rules and structures, such as chord progressions and rhythms, but they also have the freedom to improvise within those boundaries. They don't stick to a fixed script or plan. They adjust to the changing situation and context. Leaders can do the same by providing clear goals and guidelines, but also allowing flexibility and autonomy for their team members to find their own solutions and express their own ideas.
Cultivate diversity and inclusion. Jazz musicians come from different backgrounds, cultures, and styles. They bring their unique perspectives and experiences to the music. They respect and appreciate each other's differences. They also learn from each other and grow together. Leaders can do the same by fostering a diverse and inclusive team, where everyone's voice is heard and valued, and where everyone can contribute to the collective outcome.
Jazz improvisation is not only a musical skill, but also a leadership skill. By learning from jazz, we can become more creative, agile, and collaborative leaders in a complex world. 061ffe29dd