As work and life throw you and your leadership constant change, handle the chaos using the same strategies a jazz musician would employ.
1. Master the art of improvisation
According to Frank J. Barrett, jazz pianist and professor of management and global public policy at the Naval Postgraduate School, “Musicians prepare themselves to be spontaneous. Managers and executives can do the same.” Missed deadlines, forgotten meetings, a presentation that malfunctions — jazz not only requires that you keep up with the music, but it asks you contribute, no matter what notes are or are not planned. In order to guarantee success, improvise and adjust whenever anything unexpected lands on your desk.
2. Take your solo, but support others too
Don’t be shy — be proud of your work as a leader and team member. Assessing your own efforts for a business project is important for keeping your morale high. At the same time, like jazz, office work can ultimately be a group activity. Great teams, according to Barrett, “hit a groove the same way a jazz band hits a groove.” Sometimes, this means “letting someone else on the team take charge,” or letting them “get credit the same way soloists in jazz are supported by people who comp or accompany them.”
3. Love your errors
When we put so much pressure on ourselves to do everything right, we often forget that our failures are just as important as our successes for growth and achievement. Mistakes can push both business leaders and musicians to step outside their comfort zones, which is where really valuable lessons can be found. Times of conflict, whether with yourself or with others, can show you what it takes to be a respected and trusted leader.
As Miles Davis once said, “If you’re not making a mistake, it’s a mistake!”