August 2008 | Volume 2, Issue #2

In This Issue
Leadership Grooves
Leadership Riffs
The Cellar Jazz Club
Quick Links
Peter Drucker developed a coach approach to sharing his wisdom long before coaching became a valued intervention in organizational life.  He asked curious questions, listened openly, appreciated what was best in a situation, offered catalytic feedback that accelerated improvement, and sought to achieve heightened effectiveness for his clients.
I still think his best article appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 1999 and was entitled, "Managing Yourself."  In it, he argued that to do things well leaders had to cultivate a deep understanding of themselves and learn to use it effectively.  This was the essential leadership skill of the 21st century.
Building a life that is challenging, interesting, and deeply satisfying involves asking yourself five key questions as you grow into your full potential and maturity:
1.    What are my strengths?  What can I best build on to improve?
2.    How do I work?  What styles suit me best?
3.    What are my values?  And how do I align them with those of the organization I have chosen?
4.    Where do I belong?  What type of organization fits me best?
5.    What can I contribute?  How can I make the most positive difference?
What makes this article stand out for me from all of Drucker's other wise writing is the concluding section headed "Responsibility for Relationships." 
After reaching a deep and candid awareness of yourself by answering the five key questions, the crucial step forward involves taking responsibility for relationships.  Great leaders do not work alone.  They take responsibility for the relationships that will achieve their goals.  First, they accept the fact that other people are as much individuals as they are and that others have their own strengths, ways of doing things, values, fit, and desires to make a positive difference.  Learning those things about those with whom they work is essential.  Second, they take responsibility for communication.  Communication begins with curiosity and questions that show respect for others' views.  It then continues through the five key questions to arrive at a full appreciation of what others bring to the common enterprise.
Drucker, for me, was a superb coach as I went through the turmoil and uncertainty of reinventing myself in my mid-50s.  I know his five key questions on managing oneself can do the same for you.

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'.  
Great leaders do much of their work by encouraging others to contribute to a common purpose with integrity and authenticity.  They are not looking for clones or fawning acolytes.  They are looking to help hone the unique talents and the confidence of their colleagues so they can complement each other in achieving exceptional performances.
Jazz legend Miles Davis is remembered by those who played with him as that kind of leader.  Sammy Figueroa recalled that Davis was always testing people to see what they were capable of.  He asked them to play their best, then play above that.  He insisted on continuous learning.  Benny Rietveld experienced Davis as someone who wanted everything real and natural.  He wanted the person's true talent and passion to come out naturally, not forced.  And he didn't want "blind acolytes" who would do or say anything to please him.  Michael Henderson remembered Davis never telling the musicians who played with him exactly what to play.  He wanted them to come up with their own ideas for interpreting and performing the core chart or melody they had chosen.  He didn't want his colleagues to follow anyone.  He wanted them to play with them and make their own unique contribution to the performance.  These kinds of relationships, believed Davis, created great performances.
The same is true in any organization.  Create the relationships and opportunities that will continually draw out and test the full potential of colleagues in terms of both capacity and creativity and you will create the conditions for great performance.  To get into the flow of that kind of leadership is a genuine delight.

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.
Robert S. Kaplan teaches management at Harvard and is a former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs.  In the July-August 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review, he reflects on how to find personal fulfillment by reaching your unique perspective.  He advises his readers to take a fresh look at their behaviours in three main areas - knowing yourself, especially your strengths, weaknesses, and passions; identify and excel at the tasks critical to your success in your role; and demonstrate character and leadership within the system in which you have chosen to work. 
Kaplan suggests that leaders willing to increase their self-awareness for the purpose of improving ask colleagues for feedback on what behaviours they should change.  He recognizes that it's not easy, especially when these people are your subordinates.  But if done with humility and sincerity, this exercise yields powerful insights upon which to build positive change in key behaviours.
Next, Kaplan urges leaders to identify the three or four most important activities that will lead to success in their roles and ask themselves whether they enjoy those tasks and do them well.  They must become disciplined in matching their priorities to these keys to success.
Finally, Kaplan observes that character and leadership, though seemingly amorphous, make the difference between good and great leadership.  Character involves doing things for others without regard for what's in it for yourself.  Leadership involves the courage to assert yourself out of genuine concern for what's best for the organization. 
This basic leadership riff - positive self-awareness, critical task focus within your role, and modeling the way within the system - is foundational to influential leadership within successful teams.
To find out how well jazz can serve as a metaphor for the kind of personal success Kaplan sees as crucial to great leadership, accept our offer of a free download of Jazzthink: Playing with the Stuff of Success. Click here to get your copy. 

Enjoy Great Jazz in Vancouver 

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