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To many, Jazz and leadership have nothing in common. To the few that can see the broader perspective, they find a lot of lessons to lift from how jazz is played, and how they can be bought into the boardroom. Whether you are an executive at a company, or you are an entrepreneur, there are some important lessons you could take from Jazz players.

Lean thinking can help you see things from a broader perspective. Lean thinking will help you derive leadership lessons from a Jazz performance. The following are some of the leadership lessons that one could get from Jazz.

Taking Risks

Playing it safe will never move you forward. If anything, it gets you booed off stage. While everyone else boos a Jazz player who tried to play it safe and it backfired, take a lesson that business is all about taking risks. Many entrepreneurs and executives cringe at the thought of taking massive risks in today’s volatile economy. Businesses grow when they are able to overcome risks and perform in the face of adversity.


You learn more by listening to those around you than by playing yourself. Jazz players have spent hours listening to their tutors and partners to learn their craft. Regardless of whether or not you are the head of an organization, you should learn to sit back listen and learn something from other people. Keep talking all the time, and you’ll find out soon you are out of touch with your players.

Be Ready for the Unexpected

Always be prepared for adversity, challenges, and surprises. Playing Jazz is not like singing. You never really know exactly how you’ll play certain notes at a certain point until you are there. That’s often the case with running a business. Having a business plan is essential, and you might think you have your path clearly cut out. It’s never smooth though. There will be a lot of turbulence and you have to be properly braced for it.

Consider Your Audience

Play the right music for the right audience. Understand your audience first so that you are able to connect with them. If your audience thirsts for some slow and soothing melody and you are on stage blowing the roof off, they’ll most likely be annoyed regardless of how good the piece is. The same case goes for your clients and target market. You ought to appeal to their needs, wants and desires if you hope to sell to them.


Do not shy away from promoting what you do and your events. Jazz events will only pay if there are people in the seats. You should not shy away from promoting your product or service as well. Marketing is arguably one of the most important aspects of any business. Many times, customers are just waiting for you to invite them to engage with you.

These are some principles used by Jazz musicians that are clearly applicable to leadership in the business world. Lean thinking helps you to derive lessons from the most unlikely places and apply them to your business. You can draw lessons that you could apply in leadership and business from many experiences in this life.

About Lean Learning Center

The Lean Learning Center was founded in 2001 to address the gaps and barriers that are holding back companies from successful and sustainable lean transformation. In addition to the advanced curriculum, the Center has developed a learning environment designed specifically for adult learning utilizing techniques that include discovery simulations, case studies, personal planning, and reflection – ultimately engaging people at a deep and personal level. We bring our unique lean understanding in creative ways to executives, managers, supervisors, change agents and front-line employees.

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