Jazz Leadership-Lessons From A Musical Journey Into Leadership 

Gerard Devine Photography

Richard Kunz is a jazz musician and leader of a five-piece combo. He and the combo jazzed up our evening dances at a recent Toastmasters Conference in Vancouver.  The workshop he and his combo led on leadership was beyond jazz.  

Leadership Lessons from Richard Kuhn’s workshop:

 It is important for a leader to lead AND follow.

First, the leader lays down eight bars of music. Then he throws it to another member of the combo who then improvises within that structure.

Lesson: A leader provides the initial idea, but then lets someone else in the team come up with his idea(s). In fact, everyone in the combo (team) gets to “riff” off the initial idea and subsequent ideas.

 Outcome: The sum becomes more than its parts. Everyone has a say and the overall piece of music is much more than one musician (leader) could do by himself.

 It is important for a leader to listen.

 When a player contributes their 8 bars of improvisation, the leader and other combo members (team members) actively listening. When the leader again contributes, it is with a new, refreshed and invigorated spirit. Same for other combo (team) members.

 Lesson: Only by active listening and hearing the others’ contributions can the leader fashion a new, as yet unheard 8 bars of music.

 Outcome: The music takes on a life of its own. There are twists and turns that did not exist in the universe until a few moments ago.

 Living in the Eternal “Now.”

Only by being open to what is happening at this moment, as scary as it may seem, can the leader hope to have his team create something new and valuable. The music is never the same as in any previous performance. Nor will it be the same in future performances. All that has happened in the past few moments (days, months, years) influences the present moment. But all magic happens in the “now.”

 Lesson: Only by being in the now can the leader and other combo (team) members allow that magic.

 Outcome: Combo (team) members feel validated by having their contributions listened to, encouraged and added to.

 Stepping out of Ego.

 No place in jazz for ego. It only creates discord. A leader allows combo (team) members to lead them for a while.

 Lesson: By recognizing that he doesn’t have all the answers and stepping out of the way, the leader shows humility.

 Outcome: This stance encourages and supports other combo (team) members to reach down inside and share their most intimate selves…allows them to create a joyful sound. The team to feel they belong in the team and that, together, they can and do achieve above and beyond.

 It Takes Courage. 

 An insecure leader may try to have things all his own way. Team members may follow, but they may also not “buy in” fully. The leader may not get solutions other than their own.

 The leader’s ideas may be completely changed by the end of the process. There may be very little left of their original idea. Yet the outcome may be far greater.

 Only if a leader has courage to let go of their idea(s) can a greater idea or outcome emerge.

 This can take great courage. There is a saying that might apply here: you can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit. A leader is willing to have others shine in the spotlight.

 Every Toastmasters Conference is different.  Richard Kunz and his combo certainly sparked and “jazzed” up the last one.

 His site: <https://www.jazzmind.net/blog/category/leadershipWhat lessons can we glean from Jazz into our daily lives? <http://joyenergyandhealth.com/2017/05/24/jazz-leadership-mastery-newsletter-may-24-2017/>  

Submitted by Matti Anttila CC, CL, VPM Oak Bay Toastmasters