Musicians have a lot to offer the world in the form of an art with the ability to touch most every aspect of one’s life.  However, the world of music also offers numerous examples of effective leadership and how people can work together to achieve great things.

band music
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Musicians, like executives, face a lot of challenges at their workplace, and their ability to deal with these challenges have a significant impact on their success or otherwise. Some of these challenges include how to foster teamwork, dealing with change, achieving performance value and competing to succeed – challenges that any business executive would be familiar with.

In fact, in her article, Marla Tabaka recommends joining a band to fine tune one’s leadership skills:

Bill Gates
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If you want to build upon your leadership skills you could spend some time reading biographies of history’s most successful people, from Esteé Lauder to Bill Gates. These folks are great virtual mentors. Don’t stop at the books though; pick up an instrument, sign up for music lessons, and try out for a spot in a local band.

Research shows that people who learn to play an instrument and go on to play with bands or other musical groups develop strong leadership skills. Via Inc

On his part, Simon Tam shares five leadership lessons musicians can teach the world:

  1. A leader needs a vision, dream or goal
Lady Gaga
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Before putting his or her musical piece on a score, a musician can already visualize the music. In the same way, leaders need to have a sense of where they are going, be empowered by this and share this with others to empower them as well.

In 2010, Lady Gaga tweeted a photo of herself standing in front of the marquee at Madison Square Garden. Later that night, she explained how she would dream that one day her name would be in lights at the venue. She visualized the experience and used it to fuel her passion, guide her career decisions, and shared her dream with her core team so that she could be held accountable to it. Via Huffington Post

  1. Leaders recognize their need for others

The best musicians are those that support their fellow musicians. Leading is music is about helping others perform their best work – not just expecting them to.

Those who say “it’s lonely at the top” don’t recognize the support of those following them. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to have a sustainable music career without followers.

…The leadership proverb by John Maxwell puts it best: “He that thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.” Leaders can learn from musicians in building that support network by adding value to others, deeply caring about their followers, and recognizing that big dreams require a team. Via Huffington Post

  1. Leaders need to learn ‘informed improvisation’

Effective leadership demands that one is able to make smart decisions even when under intense pressure. Such ability is only possible when you are well informed on everything around you so you can accurately anticipate the result of your decision.

John Coltrane
Image Courtesy of FactMag

John Coltrane, arguably the most influential saxophonist of all time, dazzled fans with his tenor-saxophone improvisation in “Giant Steps.” While the definition of improvisation implies that something is created without preparation, that’s only a half truth: Coltrane, and artists who excel at improvisation, are only able to do so because of the extraordinary lengths they’ve taken to learn and hone their craft. Musicians can often anticipate notes and sounds, which allows them to take informed risks in the moment. Via Huffington Post

  1. Leaders are about making others look good

Like any great musicians, good leaders are willing to take a humble posture and put their team’s accomplishments above their own. A leader’s success is not independent of his or her team’s success.

Shortly after his death, footage of Michael Jackson rehearsing was released showing his vast attention to detail for the show and his commitment to make sure that everyone on stage looked and sounded perfect. He cared about how the entire ensemble looked, not just himself. Via Huffington Post

  1. Leaders are self-disciplined
Bob Dylan and the band
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Successful leaders are those that work the hardest and the smartest. They have high expectations for themselves and their team, which is only possible when they make appropriate plans and follow through on the same.

There’s a stereotype that glamorizes the life of touring artists that persists. However, that kind of lifestyle isn’t sustainable for personal health or delivering the best performance possible. In my band, we have a signed internal agreement about keeping sober on stage, maintaining our own skills and equipment, and having a schedule that allows for rest and recovery.

…If we consistently indulged in parties or slacked off, the shows would fall apart. Via Huffington Post

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Collaborative Leadership Through Music Team building



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Since at least the mid-1990s, another musical metaphor has held increasing sway in discussions of contemporary leadership and creativity: the leader of a small jazz ensemble. This figure commonly facilitates soloing and supporting, encourages experimentation and accepts the resulting mistakes. Via Forbes