October 2008 | Volume 2, Issue #4

In This Issue
What's New
Warren Bennis' Core Chart for Great Leadership
What People Are Saying About Jazzthink
The Cellar Jazz Club
Quick Links
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.

brian at desk 2008                      


What's New
We're going to reshape the content of the Jazzthink E-zine.  Each month I will outline what I find to be the basic framework - in jazz parlance, the core chart or lead sheet - of a person (or persons) whose thinking about leadership has influenced me most.  It's a bit of a window on the call and response process that has shaped my approach to leadership and teamwork in my speaking and seminars.  I hope it will help you clarify your understanding of your practice of the complex dynamics that constitute great leadership and teamwork.  Please feel free to enter into a conversation through your feedback.  E-mail me at fraser@jazzthink.com.

Warren BennisWarren Bennis' Core Chart for Great Leadership

Bennis has always been one of my favourites, ever since I first read the book he co-authored with Burt Nanus in 1985 simply called Leaders.  That was the year I started my work as Dean of St. Andrews' Hall, the Presbyterian college at the University of British Columbia.  Bennis' ideas were of great help in shaping the contributions and collaboration that emerged over the next 16 years as we expanded the work and influence of the Hall.
Bennis also helped shape my understanding of the importance of jazz as a metaphor for leadership in today's complex and constantly changing environment.  In 1994, he admitted that he had changed his mind.  Prior to that, he had used the symphony conductor as a model for leadership, with her full orchestra (organization) and detailed score (strategic plan).  But he came to see that the world was filled with too much change and surprise for that image to be true.  It was the ability of the jazz group to adapt and improvise in innovative ways that formed a better metaphor for leadership and teamwork.
Here's the Bennis core chart for leadership that I find most robust and resonant.
  Create a sense of mission - this happens when leaders listen attentively to their colleagues and help shape a mission that arises from their common passion and wisdom
  Engage and motivate others - this happens when leaders empathize with their colleagues and find ways to align their energy with the desired results
  Build an adaptive and agile social architecture - this happens when leaders enable everyone to contribute their best in the ways most suited to accomplishing the purpose in changing situations
  Generate and sustain trust - this happens when leaders respect and appreciate what their colleagues have to offer
  Develop leaders - this happens when leaders genuinely share the responsibilities
  Get results - this happens when leaders pay careful attention to all of the elements above and encourage mutual accountability within the team, helping each member bring the best of themselves to their role in serving the organization.
So, here's my suggestion.  Choose to take 5 minutes and reflect on how well your leadership conversations are harmonizing with and improvising around this basic melody for leadership.  Celebrate what's going well and decide to change one behaviour that's interfering with your leadership brilliance.
Next month's core chart comes from Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. 
What People Are Saying About Jazzthink
"Dr. Brian Fraser made an excellent presentation to the Ambassadors' Club of the Vancouver Board of Trade on October 21, 2008.  Brian insightfully summarized the parallels between groups playing jazz and the work of Ambassadors, who network with Board of Trade members, using their unique voices and improvising creatively in their conversations. His presentation was interesting, timely, and very well received."
Ray Williams
Vice-President, Ambassadors' Club,
Vancouver Board of Trade.

Enjoy Great Jazz in Vancouver 

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