Leadership lessons from a Jazz Ensemble

What does a jazz ensemble consist of?

What is an ensemble? It is a group of musicians, actors, or dancers who perform together on a regular basis. How is it different from an organisation? Again, we are a group of musicians, actors, dancers under different names and labels: Marketing, Branding, Designer, Human Resources, Operations.

Let me draw this parallel and explain what a Jazz Ensemble is. The jazz ensemble is an independent ensemble that has no set structure, although there is a thread of trust that weaves everything together, proactive in that it thrives on the uncertainty of the next note, while creative enough in that nothing is repetitive but flexible enough to let everyone be. In classical music, mistakes are easy to spot, but in jazz, they are welcomed because “mistakes” encourage improvisation.

How can we derive leadership lessons from a jazz ensemble, especially in the face of uncertainty from the Covid 19 pandemic? The chaos and confusion led to many successes at work and in leadership.

Decentralisation of the creative process
One of the most striking differences between the jazz ensemble and classical music is the decentralisation of the creative process.

Diversity and inclusivity
Such a leader treats all of his or her employees as part of a jazz ensemble in which diversity of thought, action, and ideas is welcome.

Recognition and responsibility
Another feature is the spotlight for each and every player in the jazz ensemble. They get their time to shine and lead. As the leader of a jazz ensemble, let the team members have their time in the spotlight and give them enough responsibility and confidence to believe that they will make music.

Jazz improvisation does not take place under the strict direction of a conductor or composer – instead, each player experiments adapts, creates, and continues to work together, turning real mistakes into better music.

Trust is the secret sauce and an invisible superpower for such leaders and organisations.

For a jazz ensemble to create and carry a tune, the band works together in many ways, as do the people with their individual personalities. Music can be created through many notes and melodies and leaders are not only seen, but created.

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