Jazz Leadership Means Learning How to Improvise

I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don’t think that’s quite it; it’s more like jazz. There is more improvisation.

– Warren Bennis

If you watch an orchestra, you can spot the top dog right away. He (usually) is up on the podium, removed from the others, the only one with the complete “plan” in his hands.

The jazz group, on the other hand, offers up no such easy clues.

The leader is indistinguishable. Each player takes the limelight when it’s their time to lead, and stands aside when it’s another’s. Behind the scenes, the jazz-leader is responsible for the vision and the strategy. But in performance, leadership and followership rotate.

Traditional leadership has long looked like the orchestral conductor. But we’re living within a whirlwind of change, and the authoritarian individual, working to a fixed, detailed plan from a detached position of control, isn’t equipped to deal with it.

To survive these new circumstances, we must all learn how to improvise (from the Latin “improvises”, meaning “not seen ahead of time”). We need leaders who:

• Are great improvisers

• Establish the best structures for uncertainty

• Adapt to change in real time

• Inspire others to co-create their vision of the future

We need leadership in a new groove. We need jazz-leadership.

 

Penelope Tobin presents the theory of jazz-leadership, drawing on her past experience as a professional jazz pianist and composer. Founder and CEO of Barrier Breakers®, the soft skills training and development consultancy, she is responsible for the award-winning process BBM®, which has been used since 2000 to design thousands of successful change programs for organizations and their leaders.

 

>> Download Tobin’s enlightening work on Jazz Leadership here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Penelope Tobin

Founder and CEO of Barrier Breakers®, the soft skills training and development consultancy, Penelope Tobin is responsible for the award-winning process BBM®, which has been used since 2000 to design thousands of successful change programs for organizations and their leaders.

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In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

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