Jazz Band Leadership has so much to offer!

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I turned on the radio this week and there it was again: the amazing sound of Miles Davis in Kind of Blue, playing “So What”.

It’s incredible to think that it’s 55 years since that album was released. I can’t quite say I remember it coming out although I do remember my Dad playing it many times, especially at home on a Sunday when he was pouring my Mum a sherry before Sunday lunch (when Mateus Rosé was a special treat - those were the days!).

To be honest, I found it rather loud but the main alternatives were “The King and I” and “Oklahoma” and so you’ll know what I mean when I say that Kind of Blue was distinctly exciting.



I didn’t know at the time what the words modal jazz meant, in creating the capacity for almost limitless improvisation through all sorts of different combinations, made possible by organising music in a scalar rather than a chordal way. As with all innovations, some others had taken steps in this direction before, and in this case modest steps were transformed into something altogether more bold and confident with the results that live on today.

One of the reasons I still marvel at Kind of Blue is because in our leadership culture there is still so much hesitation when it comes to trying out new combinations and ways of working and creating.

In too many organisations, the maxim “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” still carries far too much weight and is cited to justify using existing processes that have become rather slow and clunky and unproductive.

Increasingly, I have found that one of the key requirements for a really entrepreneurial top team is that the Chief Executive is up for testing out new combinations and patterns of working among the team themselves, to try and sort out the host of blockages that get in the way of all teams and need to be dealt with, constantly and patiently, if you are to be truly high performing.

I think there is much to be said for more of a focus on “jazz band leadership”. The video below says a little more about this and if you have a chance to look at it I hope you find it useful (and if you want to see a one page summary of the key points first, they're by the video here).

One of the many fascinating things about jazz band leadership is that it helps to stretch us all, as we constantly test out different ideas and ways of moving forward.

As we’re stretched, we increasingly feel that there is a process of improvisation and creativity underway that gives us quite a kick.

When was the last time you walked out of a meeting of your top team with that feeling? Exactly!






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