How the Arts Provide Leadership Lessons

As an executive coach and management consultant, I am always looking for examples of great leadership in ordinary places and life everyday experiences. I love the performing arts in all forms and when I can experience it, I jump at the chance.

Last month, I saw two great guitarists who have longevity in the music business which is often looking for the next great musical act that takes the world by storm. These well-known artists have recorded great music in different genres and have recorded and collaborated with other musicians and their music catalogue has some of our favorite songs.

It was my first time seeing these artists so my curiosity and my anticipation was high on what they would play and how listening to the songs would transport me back to a familiar place where I may have first heard the music or remind of what I was doing the last time I heard their music.

The first concert was held in an elegant concert hall to a full capacity crowd seated in five floors and when the house lights dimmed, the 80-year-old George Benson, come out is a hot pink blazer smiling, getting right down to playing his hits, I settled in for what would be a great evening of wonderful music.

Arden Executive Coaching | How the Arts Provide Leadership Lessons

What I noticed is who he surrounded himself with experienced musicians in the industry but also emerging talent of a musician still early in her career. He highlighted each person musically and for the emerging talent he sang with her and gave her an opportunity to sing a song by another vocalist, Chaka Khan, which was not part of his repertoire. The lessons in leadership included:

Mentorship – working together, showing someone how the craft is done
Showcasing – providing space for someone to demonstrate what they know
Supporting – encouraging someone to do and show their talent with confidence
Sponsorship – taking the person above and beyond where they currently see themselves
Sustainability – creating a next generation to appreciate the work already created to build upon
Enjoyment – creating experiences for yourself and others that you enjoy and find fulfillment

I was so energized after that concert. I loved hearing the tunes I knew well and those that I had forgotten. I realized what an immense talent George Benson is and to see him still going doing a three-hour concert, singing more than he played his guitar. Standing strong, looking great and handsome, it made me appreciate doing what you love as a leader and continuing to produce and bring others along.

The second concert later in the month was to see another prolific guitarist who is a great collaborator, and he got his big break in 1969 at Woodstock, Carlos Santana. He mixes Latin and African music to create iconic songs that we love. The venue he played in was a large arena and it sold out. At 75 years old, he opened and played for three hours pulling from his early song book and playing latest music as well. His wife was the drummer and along with other singers and horn players, we swayed to the music. The audience was largely his contemporaries and younger.

Arden Executive Coaching | How the Arts Provide Leadership Lessons

Like Benson, Carlos introduced experienced musical talent and he offered the same leadership lessons as Benson did. The other leadership lessons that Carlos shared through visual video displays throughout his performance is the importance of multiple forms of communication to articulate a message:

• Connectedness we all share in song and dance across many cultures no matter what we look like
• Visuals help to reinforce messages and are tools of communication and displays of inclusion

An unexpected lesson I learned is that 80 is the new 50. Continue to do what you love, seek opportunity to share what you know with capacity crowds. Sustain the lessons of the past with emerging talent for them to build upon a better future. Leadership is not only perfecting your craft but also bringing others along to learn from you and for them to teach you other ways of doing your craft, by enhancing it.

Elevate your Leadership Potential

To learn more about leadership lessons and executive coaching, reach out to Karen for a consultation.