I've been invited to teach a two-week course on jazz and leadership at the Atlantic School of Theology this July - during the Halifax Jazz Festival. As you can imagine, I'm excited and energized about convening conversations with colleagues in leadership in the Christian church, one of the communities of practice that matters most to me. We'll be thinking in jazz about missional leadership. So, I have been reading and re-reading books that connect jazz with leadership and finding some provocative ideas about how I will show up in 2013.
In The Jazz of Preaching (2004), Kirk Byron Jones has done a masterful job of weaving wisdom with the threads of jazz and leadership, focusing on jazz-inspired ways of communicating a core message. He's working on a secular version of the book called The Jazz of Public Speaking. Here are a couple of the gems from the book on sound and creativity.
Jones wants you to pay attention to sound, not just to the ideas and meanings, but to their sounds.
Sounds are a magnificent matter. Because sound is not just a matter of something we hear but something we consciously and unconsciously interpret, the repertoire of sounds is endless. ... The expansive glory of sound is its layered multiplicity. Multiple sounds that may be interpreted multiple ways is an endless ocean. Jazz musicians know about the ocean. They accept the ocean. They swim in the ocean.
Jazz is sound-making on purpose. Its reason for being is to make, celebrate, and discover new sounds. Jazz is a rhythmic, syncopated, tonal sounding of life. Its musical richness is apprehending multifarious sound from life, from nature, from the soul. (29-30)
If you anticipated this kind of soundscape in your conversations, this kind of potential in your dialogues with colleagues, could the sound of your words have a more positive impact?
Jones thinks the planet depends on a regulating vitalizing energy - creativity. No music reflects this more for him than jazz.
Creativity is waitin' and workin'. ... Jazz musicians tend to practice a humble boldness when it comes to their craft. They know that they are vessels of something much larger than they are. They know that there is a gift element about preparing to play, and playing. They know that it is not just about human intention; it is about the movement of the muse, the Spirit. But this knowledge of human limitation does not keep them from stretching long and wide into the experience of creation. They, more often than not, dive into the mystery and dare to play with the mystery. Jazz artists lean into creativity. They accept the call to create at face value. They don't question their right to be co-creators with God. They embrace and live out a deliberate, creative disposition. (66)
If you embraced the creative potential of our conversations - of every conversation - how much more innovative and constructive would you be in co-creating a better future with our colleagues?
The potential in being creative through the sound of your voices is astounding.
But is must be intentional. It must be practiced. It must be humble. It must be confident. It must be continuous. It must be resilient.
As you lean into 2013, what is your core message, the message that will make the unique difference you are here to make in the world? How can you best generate the value of that vibe with your voice in your communities?
Take some time to answer these two questions. Encourage your colleagues to do the same. Convene conversations that generate creative sounds that will make your world SMARTer.
And if you think Jazzthink might offer a keynote, a workshop, or coaching to help you provoke this kind of 2013, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.