Last week I had lunch with a very good friend who is fascinated with complexity theory. When I got home, I took an hour to roam around the internet looking for stuff on jazz, complexity theory, and leadership. I found a gem.
It's an article by educator Devin Vodicka
linking jazz to chaos theory, quantum physics, complexity, and living systems, then applying it all to leadership in schools.
He is convinced (and I think convincing) that complexity theory, living systems theory, and jazz share the same definitive concepts, what he calls swing, improvisation, and call and response
. Here's what he means, with some questions to ponder: Swing
is about creating harmonic convergence. Have you helped to create a set pf mutually agreeable concepts hat form the building blocks of a shared vision around which everyone can play and contribute? Improvisation
is about the invitation to contribute ideas and talents in innovative ways that are bounded by the harmonics of a shared vision. Do you offer that kind of freedom to those with whom you work and support them in bringing their unique brilliance to the performance in ways that enrich the results? Call and Response
is about the constant conversation and feedback that goes on throughout a jazz performance that creates a genuine community of accomplishment among the musicians and with the audience. Are you listening carefully enough to pick up the emerging wisdom and alignment being generated through the conversations with both your colleagues and your customers/clients?
These are, as Vodicka points out, the core components of great leadership - purpose, participation, and feedback.
Ask yourself the questions posed about your leadership. And here's a final question to ponder. Does your leadership swing to the point of genuinely engaging your colleagues in the kinds of conversations that generate great performances? That's the ideal inspired by thinking in jazz.