What I have learned about leadership from being in a band

By Erik Korsvik Østergaard, 7. December 2014

Six things I’ve learned for you to learn from

I’m an advisor working with leadership, culture and motivation theory.

Also, I’m the lead singer and songwriter in Entertaining Mona. Classic setup with drums, 2 x keys, bass, guitar and vocals. We’ve made some nice gigs and an album.

Being in a band has many similarities to being part of a team in an organisation – so here goes: What I’ve learned as a leader from being in a band.

1. Listen to each other

– and follow their lead and ideas

When writing a song, you have a general idea of the message and the feeling you want to transmit. Make sure to tell that story to your team/band, and then let them chip in with ideas, new chords, how to lay the drums, the tempo and dynamics etc. You get a better product and song, if everyone invests in it and can mold the result.

Nobody wins, if you want to control everything.

2. Have headroom

– for improvisation

Don’t make the work so complex and demanding, that you don’t have energy and headroom for handling sudden internal or external input or changes. Only “book” the band or team with 80% demands, to allow for agile improvisations and to listen to new input.

band entertaining mona

3. Feedback

– Understand when and how to

Yes, you might disagree with what they play or how they do it, and you might want to suggest something new or different. But, you must understand when and how to give feedback.

Is it too early in the creative process? Are they still fumbling with the chords and ideas and getting to know the problem; or are they ready for suggestions? Is he or she mentally ready for it? Was it a tough day already? Are you discussing, debating, adjusting or suggesting? Or deliberately correcting?

Also, read about Feedback Loops >>

4. Allow mistakes

– just call it jazz

Nuf’ said. It’s ok to make a mistake. It’s up to you to go with it and develop it into something great – or to just let it pass with a smile.

5. Go all in

– give all you have, also when you practice, every time

Never just “sit in”. Give all you got, so that the other band-members can lean on you and feel safer.

Fill-out your role. Contribute. Take a lead.

Also, you get a far better understanding of the end-product, very early in the process.

6. Practice, practice, practice

– the audience will know the difference

Meet often, have a plan for the rehearsal, be focused, have fun. And then, get on the road and do some gigs. The audience will tell the difference between a fumbling band, and a tight, well-working, high-performance band, where everyone feels committed and engaged.

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