This is a quick one...still getting used to this idea of blogging. But I've always found the title to be very helpful. So I just want to do as James woulda done..."hit it and quit it." Besides I've got to write out some arrangements for my Eric Byrd Trio tour of Chile! I just found out a club date has been added to the tour which I am very excited about :)
A false perception of a strong leader - I think - is one that is heavy handed, a micro-manager, one who rules in such a way that no one makes a move without that leader knowing about it. I don't subscribe to that kind of thinking or leadership model. As you may or may not know, I'm the leader of the EBT mentioned above and it's my job to create a musical environment where all the musicians feel like they can make a positive contribution.
That can either happen with me being heavy handed, which yields certain good and bad results, or me trying to model what I think is more valuable: what you don't do is more important that what you do. I'm probably like a lot of you in that I strive in environments where I'm not fearful of making errors. To be clear, this approach is probably not advisable in literal life or death situations like your local ER. But sometimes your career, your leadership, your future is set on a trajectory based on the decisions NOT to do, rather than the decisions you make, (or what you do do. I'm a guy with 3 sons...what's a little potty humor amongst readers?...)
Still not clear?
This morning I saw an interview with Denzel Washington who said the best piece of advice he ever got in his career early on was it's the roles you turn down that will set you up for the roles you are offered. If the integrity of the work is your goal, make choices that support your integrity as a leader/artist/musician/whatever. As a jazz musician I have to make choices all the time. About 10 years ago the Trio made a conscious choice NOT to take EVERY gig offered to us. Now that means there are going to be places we don't play that other people play, there are some weekends we are home when other bands are playing. But our career trajectory has been much more lucrative and significant because of the gigs we turned down - not just for the gigs we took.
"you think pennies you get pennies...you think dollars you get dollars..." - best line in the entire RAY movie
And it's true. As a leader free up those that look to you for leadership by giving them the freedom to be creative. Don't tell them what to do. Tell them what NOT to do. Listen to how Branford Marsalis puts it. Listen to the whole thing because it's a GREAT record but specifically listen from 6:35 - 7:10:
He leads by telling his group what not to do but rarely tells them what to do. (do do...still makes me giggle...)
Anyway, that's the point today: instead of coming down on what your team needs to do so that they learn to follow you, inspire them to follow and trust their own instincts by freeing them up on what they can do. I'm going to get back to work on writing out some charts but they will be just a guide on what NOT to do.