Have you seen the movie La La Land? Did you like it? I did.

I liked it for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that there is a scene in La La Land that could have come straight out of Finding Time to Lead.

Yes, really.

Can you guess which scene?
Nope. It wasn’t when Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were dancing together amidst the stars. It wasn’t when Ryan Gosling was wearing a red pleather jacket and performing in an 80s knockoff band.

Emma Stone serving coffee on the Warner Brothers lot didn’t come out of Finding Time to Lead, and it wasn’t when all those happy people were singing and dancing on an LA freeway. (Although those were all good moments!)

Take a breath and picture Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone sitting in a basement jazz bar. He is a jazz musician and composer. Jazz is his life. She’s just told him she doesn’t like jazz. She thinks it’s boring.

Emma Stone: “You know, where I grew up there was this station called KJAZ 103. I mean we’d just put on that station and then have a cocktail party and everyone would just kind of talk over it.”

Ryan Gosling’s impassioned response: “I know, I know… so I think that that’s part of the problem is that you can’t hear [jazz], you have to see it. You have to see what’s at stake. I mean look at these guys… look at, look at the sax player right there, he just high-jacked the song! He’s on his own trip.

Everyone of these guys is composing and rearranging. They’re writing and they’re playing the melody. And it just, you know… there, now look the trumpet player! He’s got his own idea and so it’s conflict and it’s compromise and it’s just… it’s new, it’s brand new every night. Very very exciting.”

In Finding Time to Lead, I talk about engaged leadership being just like a jazz band!

Leadership is “conflict and compromise.” It is “brand new” every day. And it is “very very exciting.”

Just like the jazz band, everyone is playing their part, adding to the mix, working at the micro and macro levels, listening to others while playing their own unique tune. There are times to play the melody and times to play the bass line. Each person is listening, playing, composing and rearranging all the time.

We like to think that everyone is just playing from their prescribed songbook, but in fact it is much more like jazz. It’s improv and it’s struggle. It’s brand new every day and it is very, very exciting.

See La La Land … and read Finding Time to Lead. Give some thought to how you might see leadership differently. (You can download Finding Time to Lead from Amazon.)

And listen to some jazz! The jazz musician/composer who teaches this in our leadership classes recommends the album, “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis.


P.S. Looking for something you can offer to your team that they’ll enjoy and that will make a difference in their work? We’re getting ready to launch our Finding Time to Lead Accelerator for teams. If you want to get in on the ground floor, email me at leslie@elementspartnership.com and we’ll talk.