01 May Jazzy Leadership
It doesn’t matter how much work I do with leadership groups and what valuable models we use from others or even craft ourselves, I always come back to a quote in a book I read about 12 years ago. The Book is by Max DePree and it is called Leadership Jazz (Wilkinson Books, 1991).
Connecting One’s Voice and One’s Touch
While there is much to admire about the book and its contents, two things have always stuck with me. The first is rather profound. In a moving account of supporting his prematurely born, tiny granddaughter, Depree recounts how he gently massaged his little granddaughter with the tip of his finger while speaking to her. The neonatal nurse explained to Depree that “she has to be able to connect your voice to your touch.” Depree realised he was learning a lesson about leadership and the last sentence of his prologue reads “At the core of becoming a leader is the need always to connect one’s voice and one’s touch.”
In doing our work with leaders, leaders who are in the heat of battle, the leaders who have no time for professional development because of all that is going on around them yet still make the time to improve themselves and set an example as well as the leaders that have arrived by circumstance and who feel much more comfortable managing than leading, I often wonder about how they all connect their voice and touch – if at all.
Indeed, I can picture the people and hear again the conversations I have witnessed leaders have with those around them. Leaders who, with their family welfare or corporate careers on the line, still ask questions like “If this was your business, and it’s as much yours as it is mine, what do you really believe you should do in these circumstances?”
More recently, Simon Sinek has tapped into this deeper sense of conviction in “Start with Why?” (Penguin 2011) and, really, all both DePree and Sinek are asking leaders to do is to go deeper and to be authentic.
Leadership Jazz continues the very humanistic view of the qualities of great leadership in a series of anecdotal experiences, but thankfully DePree leaves us with a checklist (he says he is a man of lists) which seems richer for what has gone before and particularly, that it’s like Jazz – a score is only Jazz, only comes to life when it is interpreted and performed. He lists a dozen qualities:
- Awareness of Human Spirit
- Courage in Relationships
- Sense of Humour
- Intellectual Energy and Curiosity
- Respect for the Future, Regard for the Present
- Comfort With Ambiguity
I won’t address all of them here but I will provide some insight in each, briefly, in the coming weeks.