What Leadership and Rhythm & Blues Have in Common

I play guitar and sing some background vocals in my band Boomerang (check us out at www.boomerangband.ca). We play classic R&B and soul covers from the late 60s and early 70s.  What was coined ‘soul’ music back then, which mostly came from the Motown and Atlantic music labels then, was the R&B of that era.  However, it is a timeless generation-crossing music genre that is still distinctive today, even among the dozens of niches that populate the musical spectrum.  The essence of R&B is a groove created by the interplay of unique drum, bass, guitar and percussion riffs which on their own can be very monotonous, but when integrated together creates a soul stirring “stew” that lifts people on to their feet and on to the dance floor.  You can’t sit still once you let a good R&B groove get under your skin. It generates movement.  It creates a kind of elation.  It moves you.  It even helps overcome personal inhibitions or self-consciousness about dancing.  So you could even dance like Seinfeld’s Elaine with no second-guessing! It doesn’t even have to be a live band.  You are alone in the car with your iPod or radio and “that” Stevie Wonder R&B tune comes on and suddenly you are singing at the top of your lungs, your spirit is lifted, and maybe you are even brought to tears.  Good R&B does that….and so do effective leaders.

Now think of a time when you were influenced by an effective leader.  Effective leaders, through their actions and behaviors, create a “groove” that does get under your skin and moves you.  Of course moving others means they are accessing your discretionary energy – the energy that only you can personally choose to give.   If you as a leader (and remember leadership is not a position rather it is an activity) don’t create the groove that stirs the soul, then people won’t be lifted to the dance floor of your team or organization. 

What is that elusive groove you ask? That is for you to discover.  Gain mastery of your instrument, know your part, listen to your other band members and let ‘er rip.  Warren Bennis once said “Leaders must encourage their organizations to dance to forms of music yet to be heard.”

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