Tribal Leadership – Music as a Metaphor

Tribal Leadership stages are expressed in all the different kinds of work we do. They show up in every aspect of our lives: at work, at home, and in our reactions and perceptions of what’s around us. To illustrate this point, our brilliant partner and gifted musician, Jack Bennett and his friends and fellow musicians Donald Shenk and Susan Aldrich recently hosted a session for a client where they invited participants to experience tribal stages through musical expression. Engaging our senses invites us to connect with experiences we often miss. “Music is used as a metaphor that allows us to see what is not clear to ourselves in our everyday life” Jack explained.

Maybe you’ve heard of our popular Jazz of Leadership sessions where we use a Jazz Band to demonstrate the tribal stages.  Jack wanted to take it one step further and move it from a performance that gets watched to an experience that the audience could participate in.  He partnered up with Don who leads a Master’s Chorale to brainstorm how to get the audience involved using their voices.

The following videos depict stage two (Life Sucks) and stage three (I’m Great). They show you some keys so you can recognize where you are and where you might be able to better frame experiences for yourself and your team. These keys can help you create the right environment for everyone to bring their best, so we can all do more awesome work in the world. We hope you can get a sense of how this powerful session can enhance your understanding of the Tribal Leadership concepts.

The Stages Expressed Through Music

In the context of Tribal Leadership, stage one musicians would not even show up. “Life sucks” and there is no point to even join. Musicians who are in stage two may actually show up, however they would likely express great dislike for the work. Jack explains, “As working musicians, we know that some gigs suck and if you are operating from a stage two perspective, your unhappiness, detachment, and unpreparedness will be obvious to the audience and to your peers.” Check out the disconnection and detachment of stage two.

Musicians operating from a stage three perspective manifest their believe that they are superior and better than everyone else in the room. A stage three musician believes “I am great… and you are not,” because he is putting in more than he is getting out. “At stage three, I am the star and all others are my supporting cast. They are not really necessary,” says Jack. “At stage three, a musician would ask others, either directly or indirectly, to tone down so he can stand out.” Observe the dominance and lone warrior effect of stage three.

In stage four, we think of melodic and harmonious jazz; a display of everyone’s skills and a joint process of discovery and delight. We have each others’ backs and we work through the good, the bad, and the ugly as a team, making the best of what we have.

What would stage four sound and look like? You need to be there to actually experience it.  The audience gets real and improvised instruments and an invitation to join their voices with the choir.  If you are curious and want your team to experience it, email Jack directly. Let’s set up a time to play and learn about Tribal Leadership through the metaphor of music.

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