What Music Teaches Leaders About Reflection

As a leader, how often do you reflect on how well you're doing? It's helpful to shift focus sometimes from doing for others to doing for yourself. When you pause for reflection, you learn how to harmonize with those you lead and how to find joy in what you do.

Leadership educator and executive coach John Baldoni says that every thoughtful leader wonders how well they're doing from time to time. He felt inspired by Barry Green's The Mastery of Music: 10 Pathways to True Artistry, which explores what it takes to make good music, beginning with a musician's inner self. Baldoni says the themes of his work can help leaders make reflection a part of their regular practice. We explore how in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Awareness. What can you do and why do you do it? Musicians begin mostly because they are good at what they do, and people encourage them. Becoming a professional requires the insight to understand the power of the music and your role in bringing it to life. Similarly, leaders emerge from seeing opportunities to make a difference, says Baldoni. As with music, it is not a one-time thing; it's a continual process of questioning one's self and results—hence the need for reflection.

Work. What you do matters. It takes discipline to become a virtuoso trumpeter or violist. Business author Malcolm Gladwell posits that it "requires a huge investment of time" to achieve a degree of proficiency. And for a virtuoso, that level is only a beginning, because you need to deliver on that promise every time you play. For leaders, mastery comes through experience: from first managing yourself, then getting the opportunity to manage others. Leadership is the mastery of bringing out the best in others, as musicians bring out the best in the music they play, Baldoni says.

Artistry. Remember that it's not about you—it's about others. Every great artist comes to the realization, at some point in their career, that people care more about what you are producing than what you are. Baldoni says this lesson applies for musicians as well as leaders. Yes, people admire accomplishments, but they appreciate them more because they have been moved by what you have done. A violinist can bring an audience to tears with the poignancy of his or her playing. A leader can guide a team to accomplish great things because they believe in what they do. It comes down to purpose, and that purpose resonates within us all.

Baldoni says harmony is another aspect to musicianship that pertains to leadership. In a physical sense, musicians who play with others must harmonize to sound good. They also need to meld as colleagues. We see this most vividly with small groups such as trios and quartets. Each giving to the other enables the total sound to be better than it could with a solo artist.

Are you inspiring your people to pull together in ways that bring out their best, despite individual and collective limitations? Try some reflection. As with music, leadership is a process rooted in joy for what you do and the positive effect it has on others.

Source: John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2018, Trust Across America honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Trust. Inc.com named Baldoni a Top 100 Leadership Speaker. Baldoni is the author of 14 books, including MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.

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