Viewpoint 10 | Developing Leaders Issue 28: 2018 4 Leadership Lessons from Jazz Using Shared Leadership, Collaboration, and Improvization By Grant Ackerman W hy do we organize? When I pose this question to executives, their answers are understandably predictable: to accomplish an objective, to make use of all available resources, to maximize efficiencies. While all of these are correct, there is a simpler, more elegant response. We organize because we can’t do it alone. When understood at its deepest level, this should be a humbling revelation. If you can accomplish an objective alone, do it alone. It will be faster and less complicated. But if you can’t do it alone, then recognize that you are dependent upon others, and how well you work together will make all the difference in the world to your success. The same holds true for a great jazz ensemble. Any one of the musicians could play unaccompanied and create a memorable experience for an audience, but it wouldn’t be the same as when they’re playing with other talented artists. Why do jazz musicians organize? Because what they want to create can’t be created alone. The great part about using jazz as an organizing metaphor is the unique aspect of this art form. Unlike classical orchestras, rock bands or other musical configurations, jazz ensembles rely on shared leadership, collaboration, improvisation and a heartfelt humility that honors every individual’s contribution. And the results are more than memorable. I once asked a jazz musician what it’s like when the band has just finished a song and gotten really out there – so far out there that they didn’t know if they could find their way back to a smooth finish, in real time, together. What is on the mind of the performer after taking such a journey, after having pushed the envelope of creativity and cooperation? The musician’s response: “How soon can we do that again?” Now, ask yourself how often you walk out of a meeting in your organization thinking, “How soon can we do that again?” What is it about the way jazz musicians work together that makes their “meetings” so exciting? Here are four of the most pertinent leadership lessons from jazz I have collected over the years: