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Tuning Up Leadership: Raising the Frequency for Sustainable Change

Music has always been a universal language that transcends boundaries, connecting people across cultures and generations. But have you ever thought about the powerful lessons it can teach us about leadership?

Last Wednesday evening, during an intimate dinner to celebrate the successful completion of the Series A funding round of a company I’m advising, the subject of music in business came up.

It took me back to the early days of Shell Internet Works when we built a new organization across multiple locations in pursuit of new business models leveraging the eBusiness phenomenon. The team combined creative colleagues from inside the company who knew a lot about ‘pots & pans’ with external hires who were experts on the ‘bits & bites’. 

One of the activities to shape the organization culture, build teamwork and improve communication was a program to practice as a big drum band. It was a great equalizer and generated a positive vibe. Such programs not only increase pain tolerance, but they also cause people to act more cooperatively together after drumming as a group. In corporate settings, it has been found to increase productivity and job satisfaction, reduce burnout, and increase the feeling of connectedness between employees. All key elements needed to navigate the change towards a sustainable world.

Here are some helpful lessons:

  1. Adaptability: Musicians must adjust to changes in tempo, key, and mood in real-time. Leaders, too, must be adaptable and agile in the face of uncertainty. Embrace change as an opportunity for growth and innovation.
  2. Resilience: Learning an instrument takes time, patience, and perseverance. In leadership, setbacks are inevitable, but it’s how we bounce back that defines our success. The sustainability transformation is no different. Keep pushing forward, learn from failures, and never stop improving.
  3. Improvisation: Just as jazz musicians create beautiful melodies through improvisation, leaders can foster trust, taking some risks, making mistakes, good listening, flexibility and adaptability and innovation by embracing the art of improvisation in their leadership styles. 

At times, where sustainability is concerned, it is my impression that we are the orchestra on the Titanic; as the ship sinks we keep playing as though nothing really is the matter and we have rhythm and time on our side. 

Let’s remember that whether you’re conducting an orchestra or leading a team, the principles of music and leadership are interconnected. So, let’s strive to strike a harmonious chord in our professional journeys, making beautiful music together as we lead our teams to success. 

What lessons have you learned from music that you’ve applied to your leadership journey? We would love to hear your insights.

You are invited to dive into the world of adaptability, resilience, and the art of improvisation. Join us on a journey where leadership principles create strong group cohesions.

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