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Sex, Leadership and Rock 'n' Roll (and the NHS)

Part two of Peter Cook's entry as a guest author for FHIT.

Top Business Guru Tom Peters recently said of it: None would doubt that we live in a Rock 'n' Roll Age -- so what makes more sense than a brilliant, original, rockin' Rock 'n' Roll model of business management and leadership? Sex, Leadership and Rock 'n' Roll is a marvellous book, which closes the door on the tidy, hierarchical, know-your-place 'Orchestral Age' and ushers in a new, creative era of challenge and change. Hooray!

… and then there was jazz.

John Kao noted the connections between jazz and leadership in his book Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity. Kao is a Harvard Business School professor, a jazz musician, has a PhD in psychiatry from Yale University and a successful career in Hollywood. He points out that creativity is fuelled by contradictions: between discipline and freedom; convention and experiment; old and new; familiar and strange; expert and naïve; power and desire. He points out that leaders should not try to resolve contradictions but work with them.

Kao’s vision is mostly about genius level creativity – he uses Charlie Parker amongst his examples of successful freeform jazz musicians who operates at the ‘edge of chaos.’ You have to be a brilliant player to be able to do this and this points to one difficulty with the jazz analogy; that much creativity at work is quite ordinary and does not always require or value genius level contributions – Have you ever tried to get different professional experts to work together? The jazz analogy is right in companies that operate at the ‘edge of chaos.’

Both the orchestra and the jazz analogies offer us complementary insights into leadership. The Rock’n’Roll analogy is both structured and improvised, is more accessible as a popular artform and relates better to the less certain post-industrial society which we play in. The musical analogies of leadership range from the highly formal and structured through to informal and more chaotic. Rock’n’Roll sits in the middle, which is where most organisations are--both tight and loose...

Peter's book “Sex, Leadership and Rock 'n' Roll” can be ordered on Amazon.


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