I've been waiting for this book for 10 years. And I am not disappointed. It's a brilliant exploration of what jazz can teach teams and their leaders.
The author is Frank J. Barrett. The book is an expansion of and further reflections on the most instructive and inspiring article I read as I explored the possibility of integrating my love of jazz with my passion for effective teams when I founded in Jazzthink in 2002.
Team leadership, Barrett argues, is a design activity. It involves creating stimulating space, sufficient support, and bracing challenges so people will be tempted to grow on their own. It involves creating enough discrepancy and dissonance to provoke people to move beyond habitual positions and repetitive patterns to test out innovative possibilities.
Provocative leaders develop double vision. They create new narratives while simultaneously understanding that those narratives don't yet fully exist. They invite people to live in hopeful stories. [Miles] Davis was [such a] leader. He imagined unplayed and overlooked gestures before they existed, and because he did that, the history and jazz and pop music changed forever. So it is with all provocative leaders. They use double vision to create positive change and inspire alternative possibilities. They introduce a way of talking or acting that doesn't yet exist or even make sense, frequently to themselves, and they constantly provoke their own understandings by surrounding themselves with people willing to disagree with them, perhaps to the nth degree. To look out over the chaotic and unclear messages in the world and see opportunity, to assume that something of value can be discovered and developed - these are skills to be cherished. (151)
This is the kind of imagination, creativity, and innovation that teams need to develop if they are to navigate the turbulence of our times. This is the kind of conversation that will cultivate new ways of flourishing.
I am highlighting now on the Jazzthink website a particular kind of team for which I have a special passion - governing boards. These teams set the tone for any organization. The kind of teamwork they model spreads throughout the organization and beyond into the communities they serve. The quality of conversations among board members determines the quality of governance they deliver.
Jazzthink helps governing boards of all kinds learn how to have SMARTer conversations for SMARTer governance. This is the kind of governance that generates and supports the provocative leadership Barrett is exploring in the quote above.
We'd love to help your board explore its potential for governing SMARTer. I bring over 40 years of successful practice, concentrated study, and innovative reflection to my work with governing teams. Contact me at email@example.com to discuss the possibilities.
Jazz Quote of the Month
Bill Evans led a life rich in talented expression that was also marked by periods of tortured trouble. It reached levels few of us experience - both the talent and the trouble - but all of us live with some challenging mix of talent and trouble.
This month's quote from Bill Evans captures the resilient wisdom that must have kept him going.
Music should enrich the soul; it should teach spirituality by showing a person a portion of himself that he would not discover otherwise. It's easy to rediscover part of yourself, but through art you can be shown part of yourself you never knew existed. That's the real mission of art. The artist has to find something within himself that's universal and which he can put into terms that are communicable to other people. The magic of it is that art can communicate to a person without his realizing it... enrichment, that's the function of music.
It's what the music touches in your soul that generates the power to discover new depths of being. Peter Pettinger captured this in the subtitle his 1988 biography of Evans - How My Heart Sings.
As you move into September, how are you imagining and practicing the music in your voice in conversation so it creates space for your colleagues to discover parts of themselves they have not yet appreciated? Those are the conversations that help the heart and soul sing. Those are the conversations that build powerful communities.
Learn COACHing Skills at Douglas College in October
Brian is teaching a series of three day-long courses at Douglas College this fall (and twice more the following spring) on COACHing Skills for Managers/Leaders. Click here for information on the course and registration. Contact Brian directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Jazz Vespers at Brentwood Presbyterian Church
We've changed the day this fall. Jazz Vespers is now on Saturdays at 4:00PM - Sept 15, Oct 20, and Nov 17. Christmas Jazz Vespers will be on Dec 22. We welcome you to join us.
Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club in September 2012
My picks for this month are the Cory Weeds Quartet on September 13 and the PJ Perry/Jerry Weldon Quartet on Sept 28 & 29. That's The Cellar's 12th anniversary weekend.