Monday, March 26, 2007

Leadership Jazz by Max de Pree

In his book, Leadership Jazz, Max de Pree says: “I enjoy jazz and one way to think about leadership is to consider a jazz band leader. Jazz-band leaders must choose the music, find the right musicians and perform – in public.

But the effect of the performance depends on so many things—the environment, the [people] playing in the band, the need for everybody to perform as individuals and as a group, the absolute dependence of the leader on the members of the band, the need of the leaders for the followers to play well. That’s not a bad summary of an organization!

Jazz band leadership is an expression of servant leadership. For the leader of a jazz band has the opportunity to draw the best out of the other musicians. And jazz, like leadership, combines the unpredictability of the future with the gifts of individuals.”

Writing [p102-103] about how we might draw out the creativity of our staff, Max de Pree picks up his favourite image again and says, “Creative work needs the ethos of jazz….. A [Jazz] Leader will pick the tune, set the tempo, start the music and define a ‘style’.

After that it’s up to the band to be disciplined and free, wild and restrained, leaders and followers, focused and wide-ranging, playing the music for the audience and accountable to the requirements of the band.

Jazz-band leaders know how to integrate the voices in the band without diminishing their uniqueness. The individuals in the band are expected to play solo and together. What a refreshing way to think about leadership and working with staff to create a vital and productive organization!”

De Pree users colorful, contemporary images that stimulate reader reflection.

One of the most insightful books on a well-worked topic, that addresses the best style of leadership.

Max De Pree, Leadership Jazz (New York: Dell Publishing, 1992), 8-9, 102-3.

Image: Leadership Jazz.