7 Lessons Leaders Can Learn from Musicians

Musician playing live on stage


Do you want to lead well? Then maybe you just have to look at good musicians! Aside from learning with a leadership compass, great musicians can also teach us what great leaders are made of.

Here are 7 leadership lessons you can learn from musicians.

1. A leader is a singer and a songwriter

As a captain, you have to have a good story. Something that everyone understands, with which you inspire, move or encourage people to rise above themselves. That message must of course be conveyed well, with full conviction. Take, for example, Beyoncé, who denounces human rights issues in her recent albums and during the accompanying tours. It is never preachy because she presents her message with eye-catching images and stunning singing performances.

2. Make sure everyone has the same sheet music in front of them

The characteristics of a managerial position can also be seen in a conductor or a bandleader, who leads an orchestra or other musical ensemble, indicating which music should be played and especially how exactly. An excellent example is Bruce Springsteen. In his E Street Band, everyone is on the same page, so Half a word is enough for Bruce. Sometimes even without ever having rehearsed. They don’t call it The Boss for nothing.

3. Develop a simple theme and repeat

If you want to convey something, it has to be as simple as possible and if you want people to remember it, you simply have to repeat it very often. That’s why people know a chorus of a catchy song so quickly from the outside. Few people are as adept at it as Paul McCartney and John Lennon. ‘All You Need Is Love’ is a mantra that everyone recognizes, but Lennon and McCartney also know how to package big themes in appealing songs such as ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Imagine’.


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4. Surround yourself with the best players

You can’t be the best at everything, although you can make sure that you have people around you who are rock solid in certain areas. There is no better-known example in pop music than Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Thanks to that album, Michael Jackson is crowned The King Of Pop, but he does not do it on his own. Quincy Jones is the producer, the rock band Toto is hired to play the songs and Eddie Van Halen shows up for a guitar solo. You are not a king without a court.

5. Let others shine

A great leader is indispensable, but he should not shine by absence. When he steps into the background, others must shine so that he is not missed. The job has to be done anyway. You can see that well The Common Linnets. The group is formed around Ilse DeLange, although she claims (as befits a good leader) that every individual is equally important. She, therefore, feels free to step into the background so that one of her colleagues can step into the spotlight.

6. Encourage dedication and enthusiasm

If you want to achieve the best possible performance, as a leader you have to make sure that the people around you, just like yourself, go all the way. Dedication and enthusiasm are contagious: as a leader you are not the driving force, you pull it forward together with your team. You can see that very well at Prince’s concerts. The passion with which the pop star makes music is admirable and with this Prince encourages his band members to play songs like ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘Raspberry Barret’ with dedication.

7. Commit to a greater purpose than yourself

When you, as a captain, are committed to a special achievement or a good cause, you do not do so out of self-interest. You do that because you believe in it. As a leader, you can encourage others to believe in that as well in order to achieve a goal together. Singer Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats wants to end the famine in Ethiopia in 1984. An unattainable, but a noble goal. Together with Midge Ure of Ultravox he writes ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, on which all British stars of that time sing along. The message remains.