Leadership And Jazz
I’ve decided to withold the follow-up to yesterday’s comments on leadership, for the time being. In it, I’m trying to consider why we feel the need for leaders in the church and how this need is invariably framed by the existing church structures and their need to be justified and supported. It’s a potent set […]
I’ve decided to withold the follow-up to yesterday’s comments on leadership, for the time being. In it, I’m trying to consider why we feel the need for leaders in the church and how this need is invariably framed by the existing church structures and their need to be justified and supported. It’s a potent set of questions, but what I have written is just too negative and soaked deeply in pessimism.
However, while taking a break from another round of trying to edit some hope and creative momentum into the piece, a post from the Jazz Theologian linking an interview with Wynton Marsalis came though. The USA Today article asks how corporate leaders can learn from the art of Jazz improvisation and in many ways, it addresses a number of the practical concerns I was trying to highlight. The whole article is worth reading, but here are some quotes.
Q: Does a jazz stage really have anything in common with the typical workplace?
A: When you listen to great jazz musicians, you hear the respect they have for each other’s abilities. During a performance, most of the musicians’ time is spent listening to others. You see the trust they have for each other because they are always making adjustments and improvising based on what someone else does.
Q: The roots of jazz go back to slavery. Do the best leaders have to experience a level of pain to be their most creative? For example, can a company thrive under a CEO born of privilege?
A: The farther away from the sun we are, the colder it gets. To know the essence of a thing requires us to go back to the origination of that thing, because time erodes meaning and enthusiasm. The originators of jazz were a second generation out of slavery and victims of rigorous forms of segregation in which humanity was routinely and institutionally denied. You would think that they were thinking about getting revenge, but in actuality, they were thinking about sharing and communicating with all kinds of people, and they became masters of achieving balance with others. These early jazz musicians worked out a perfect way to co-create using improvisation and a basic unit of rhythm called swing.
Q: On stage, what’s the difference between a leader and a follower?
A: Children are only responsible for themselves. As adults, we find ourselves responsible to and for more people, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, our country, our world. Our ascension to a mature level of citizenship is directly related to the responsibility and size of things we choose to take on. In the arts, this ladder leads from your personal artistry to your art form, then on to all the arts and finally to humanity itself.
Q: So, is there a boss in a jazz band who takes charge?
A: In jazz, hierarchy is determined by your ability to play, not your position in the band. The philosophy of jazz is antithetical to the commoditization of people. It is rooted in the elevation and enrichment of people. The reason that jazz is the most flexible art form in the history of the planet is because it believes in the good taste of individuals. It believes in the human power to create wonderful things, and it embraces that instead of attempting to administrate it away with senseless titles and useless hierarchies.
[tags] Leadership, Wynton Marsalis [/tags]