Being a leader isn't easy at the best of times...
Updated: Nov 9
As a leader how much do you inhibit or even block your team's potential by adopting an unhelpful leadership style?
And do you even know that you are...?
Life can be chaotic and complicated. When you are in the thick of things you aren’t going to necessarily reach for the text book. There are more variables than any one person can ever grapple with. Factors such as the business process (is it actually working?) and the complexity of relevant tasks (too much information) all play an important role in adding to the 'leadership fog'. In the moment it's all too easy to react and as a consequence choose the wrong leadership style for the circumstances. Even as a team member, knowing how to flag up issues can be stressful if you don't understand the process or how you colleagues are themselves coping or if your boss can handle it.
Outside of the field of music, many people have a preferred leadership style they use as a matter of default. This can often make switching between styles challenging. It can also be difficult to gauge what style is most suitable for a certain set of circumstances.
What’s needed is an ‘instant’ means of recognising what kind of situation you might be facing and be able almost intuitively to apply an appropriate style and do it naturally. You are only going to be able to do this if it’s simple and feels relatively comfortable. If it isn’t simple and straightforward it will be hard to remember.
One of the fundamental aspects of being a musician is the way in which we tend to work together. Yes, there are times when we don't but even then we know intuitively when something isn't 'right'. We have leaders but other members of the band will flag up where there is an issue. Musical leaders tend to accept this. When we are rehearsing, if our band members are going to produce a real result, we have to find ways of accommodating each other. In actual performance we don't have time to apportion blame. We just have to get on with it and fix the errors as we play.
Musicians are used to making mistakes. They are so darned obvious! So we have to be able to accept that we've goofed and get on with it.
As you might be guessing there's a lot to be learned from musicians from the ways we interact with each other.
But are non-musical situations anything like musical situations?
Let's start by stating the obvious. Businesses have methods, processes and directions. So does music. We call them instrumental techniques (methods), the score (processes) and the conductor (directions). So if we musicians are getting it right then perhaps there is something to learn in non-musical circumstances.
But don't you musicians make stuff up? Isn't that called Jazz. We don't make stuff up in the office. We might be told off for that.
The answer to that question is very simple. Could it be that ideas come about more readily when there's a free flow of ideas between team members? In between all the things you are supposed to do in the office, there's always time for a coffee, or a chat in the corridoor between meetings. How many great ideas occur away from the team meeting? Why do they occur there? Why not when everyone is together like they do with us musicians?
Musicians stay together when they are being creative. We have a wholely different attitude to non-musicians around 'making stuff up'. Our approach generates ideas so much more easily.
What's that about?