Four Chords of Leadership

| | Personal Leadership

In his post The 97 Percent Solution Wally Bock makes this point:  ” If you want to become an exceptional leader, observe what exceptional leaders do and then do it yourself.”

This is great advice.

AND it doesn’t mean you have to do exactly what someone else did in the same way.  It had me think about a post I wrote a long time ago titled Four Chords to Innovation.  It was based on the the video below playing riffs from 36 popular songs that were written with the same four chords.

It is truly amazing that such a variety of sound, emotion, style and words could be expressed with the same four chords.

In Four Chords to Innovation I explored how this applied to innovation.

I think it also applies to the opportunity to embrace our own unique way of expressing our leadership.

While we can develop ourselves as leaders by observing and emulating great leadership in action we don’t have to be just like those we are emulating.  We can learn practices and principles in communication and decision making for example, but how it looks when we take similar actions based on those can and even should look different.

In fact I would suggest that we must be careful not to copy the form, but rather model our actions based on inquiring into the perspective, thinking and principles that are informing the behavior and actions of those great leaders.  When we try to copy what others do we all to often occur as inauthentic.

There is a difference between feeling uncomfortable in taking a new approach or action because we are stretching ourselves and feeling uncomfortable because we are trying to be like someone else.  It is important to recognize the difference because even if you don’t others will.

So observe and learn from the leaders who inspire and motivate you, especially the ones who represent the kind of leader you want to be.

Just be sure to do it in a way that is an expression of who you are!   In other words use what you learn be a better version of yourself rather than try to copy someone else.

Consider one of the best leaders in your life right now.  What do you think their “four chords” of leadership might be?


Enter A Comment

Barb   |   08 July 2011   |   Reply

As usual, young lady, you strike very good chords.
“observe and learn from the leaders who inspire and motivate you, especially the ones who represent the kind of leader you want to be.”
You and your thoughts on leadership were on my mind as I watched the final shuttle launch on television. It made me cry.
As I watched the launch I was baking for a celebration that will take place at our church tomorrow evening.
I saw a powerful parallel. The Space Shuttle program existed due to vision, courage and leadership.
Our church building is 100 years old. We rebuilt the inside of the Marian Center, the building that houses all the offices, meeting rooms, classrooms, etc. Why? because the building itself was sound. And, the German immigrants who built that building had a vision for the future of their community. They wanted to have a place to worship and to come together that would be in place for all that was to come.
The Space Shuttle? Could those engineers, designers, astronauts, etc know what would come from their exploration? No, but they knew they wanted to develop for the future.
I stand in awe of everyone 150 years ago in Indianapolis who had a dream and a vision.
I stand in awe of everyone in the Space program since it’s inception, who had a dream and a vision.
Leaders Dream! Leaders Act upon their Dream.
We are blessed because there are Dreamers/Leaders

Susan Mazza   |   12 July 2011   |   Reply

Thanks Barb. Honored that my thoughts on leadership came to mind for you while you watched the launch. There is so much inspiration and so many lessons about leadership to be drawn from our exploration of space!

I love your point that “Leaders dream and act on their dreams.” Every single one of us can be a dreamer and act on those dreams…that means every one of us can be a leader!

Deborah Costello   |   08 July 2011   |   Reply

I knew I had missed something great from you this week. Summer should be leisure, but life is crazy. This post gives me pause to think about the kind of leader I want to be for my students in the coming year. As I look at my colleagues I can find the ones I wish to emulate and do so, copying the best bits and improvising to make it my own. Thank you for your thoughts here. Hope you are well.


Susan Mazza   |   12 July 2011   |   Reply

Thanks Deb! Amidst the lazy days of summer there is often a opportunity for reflection that we might not experience in busier times of the year.

You use a key word here – improvize. Today I think leadership requires improvization – often in experience it is more like directing a jazz ensemble than an orchestra. With a clear theme and direction, a few simple rules and a lot of improvization magic can happen!

Jann Freed   |   10 July 2011   |   Reply

How interesting Susan. I made a life change and I “retired” from college teaching after 30 years to pour my heart and soul into leadership development. It is a risk, but now or never. It is the right thing to do. But I have been working on a leadership book for several years based on more than 100 interviews with thought leaders in leadership. Many publishers have said to me, “Where is your voice? What have you learned from them? We want to hear your voice.”

Maybe I just need four “chords.” So now I need to find them! Thanks.

Susan Mazza   |   12 July 2011   |   Reply

Congratulations Jann on creating a vision and the courage to follow it. I wish you well in discovering your “four chords” and finding your unique voice.