June 2008 | Volume 1, Issue #12

In This Issue
Leadership Grooves
Leadership Riffs
A Special Request
The Cellar Jazz Club
Quick Links

I've just re-read Norman's Maclean's little novella, A River Runs Through It
It's about a Presbyterian minister in Montana who is as passionate about fly fishing as about his religion.  There were a couple of passages that caught my attention in this reading.  Early on, the son who is narrating comments that unlike many Presbyterians, his father often used the word "beautiful."  And he was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe, such as that all good things - from trout fishing to eternal salvation - "come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy." 
Those passages got me thinking about how we master the beauty of leadership.  It's an unusual combination - beauty and leadership.  But I think there's something there worth considering.
As I listen to the wisdom that the jazz trio provokes in our Jazzthink audiences, I am becoming more and more aware of the frequency with which the positive quality of the relationships among the musicians and the joy they take in playing with each other is coming up on the stickies on the wall.  There is real beauty in those relationships, something that just feels right to the point of awe and wonder.  You can't always put it into words, but your heart resonates with the knowledge that this is the way things are meant to be.
In her wonderful little book, On Beauty and Being Just, Elaine Scarry writes that "Beauty brings copies of itself into being."  Daniel Goleman, in his latest work, Social Intelligence, talks about "mirror neurons," a widely dispersed class of brain cells that operate like neural WiFi.  Mirror neurons track the emotional flow, movement, and even intentions of the person we are with, and replicate this sensed state in our own brain by stirring in our brain the same areas active in the other person.  Beauty in relationships can be contagious.  So can ugliness. 
Mastering the art of beauty and grace in relationships is not easy.  It takes attention and intention.  It takes practice and more practice.  It takes courage and persistence.  But it's more than worth it.
I want to provoke you this month to reflect on the opportunities that you have in exercising your leadership to create beautiful relationships and to imagine how that kind of beauty inspires remarkable performances that change the world.

Brian Fraser                      


Leadership Grooves
Getting in a 'groove' for jazz musicians means playing exceptionally well, appreciating and enjoying the feel and flow of the music, and pleasing immensely all those involved in the performance - self, fellow musicians, and audience.  You find your 'groove' by paying careful attention to the source of sound, significance, and satisfaction deep in your soul.  Each month we will feature stories of people finding their leadership 'groove'.  
Jimmy Cobb
When Miles Davis and the group that recorded Kind of Blue finished their studio sessions in 1959 and listened to the result, drummer Jimmy Cobb said, "It must have been made in heaven."  That was the kind of beauty he experienced in the relationships that produced the music.
The sextet that gathered in Columbia's 30th Street Studio (a converted church in downtown Manhattan) in March and April of 1959 was composed of virtuoso musicians with big egos and strong opinions.  Miles Davis played trumpet.  Cannonball Adderley was on the alto sax and John Coltrane on the tenor sax.  Bill Evans was at the piano, Paul Chambers on the bass, and Jimmy Cobb at the drums.  All were in their late 20s and early 30s, masters of their instruments, but still establishing themselves as the jazz legends they were to become.  They were brash, fierce, and determined, yet they came together to create thing of beauty that is widely regarded as the definitive jazz recording of the twentieth century.  "In the church of jazz," wrote Ashley Kahn, "Kind of Blue is one of the holy relics."
They were able to do it because they were excited and optimistic about what might happen, they had mutual respect for each other and an unswayable faith in each player's potential, they wanted this gig to work, and they had learned the cardinal lesson of jazz - make it feel good!  They did not suppress their egos or opinions, but managed them in the service of the performance.  That's the secret.  Master the art of managing your strengths and controlling your weaknesses in the service of the group doing the performance.  That's how you will find beautiful relationships in your unique leadership groove. 

Leadership Riffs 
A 'riff' in jazz is a melodic phrase that is constantly repeated and played over changing harmonies and rhythms.  It's a core theme around which improvisation happens.  As leaders, our 'riffs' are communicated in conversation, the most common form of improvisation or jazz on this planet.  Each month we will highlight a key idea essential to great leadership around which you can improvise in your conversations.

Henry MintzbergI'm attracted to relationships with people who respect, empathize, appreciate and laugh, people who are REAL.  Yep, it's another acronym. 
But these are the core attitudes and behaviours that make leadership work for great teams.  This is one of the most robust and resonant riffs of great leadership.  When you choose to bring these things together in your work with others, you create something truly beautiful that makes the world a better place within your sphere of influence and beyond.
Henry Mintzberg, is his wickedly astute Managers, Not MBAs, wants business education to be redesigned around real experience, i.e. lived experience.  It needs to be more than theories, measurement, and techniques.  It needs to be grounded in the "soft" stuff - like working with people, doing deals, processing vague information, motivating and mobilizing colleagues - that is foundational to great performance.
Think about how you would experience a team where respect, empathy, appreciation, and laughter formed the core values and vision.  If that riff appeals to you, then go and use it to create beautiful melodies in your workplace.  Remember the effect of those "mirror neurons" Goleman discusses in Social Intelligence.  You really can do it! 

A Special Request

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Because I believe so strongly in this cause, I'm asking for your support.  Jill and I are walking the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco on October 19, 2008, to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  In 1969, Jill's nephew, Tommy Diespecker, died of acute lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 6.  Then, 4% of children survived the disease.  Today, over 80% survive.  This research does make a difference.  To find out more and sponsor me, click here.  And many thanks for your consideration and generosity. 

Enjoy Great Jazz in Vancouver 

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