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  • Mark Loftus

Spot the leader?

Can you spot the leader in a team? Leadership involves creating, or discovering, meaning and purpose and then helping people connect productively to this purpose. But… Leaders also inspire leadership from others.

NPR, the US radio station, has a wonderful series of concerts available as YouTube videos. The ‘Tiny Desk’ concerts involve musicians crowding into a corner of the NPR studio and recording a 15 minute live set. They have featured everyone from Ed Sheeran to Yo-Yo Ma.

A recent Tiny Desk concert featured the Ezra Collective, a London-based group of musicians who combine improvised jazz with Afro-beat and dance music. They are as likely to light up a dance floor as they are to have people nodding their heads in appreciation of the sophistication of their solos.

We love their music but it might not be to your taste. But go ahead anyway and take a look at the video of their Tiny Desk concert with the sound turned down.

As you watch, ask yourself - ‘who is the leader?’

You will see Joe Armon-Jones on keyboards spending more time looking at his band-mates than at his fingers. You’ll see subtle glances between the two brothers, Femi Koleoso on drums and TJ Koleoso on bass, the pair of them locked into their groove. And you’ll see the appreciation from Ife Ogunjobi and James Mollison on trumpet and sax for the way the sound space is set up for them to solo into.

"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves". - Lao Tzu

But who is leading?

One of the signs of a mature team is that, whilst those in the team know, an outsider looking into the team will find it hard to know who is the leader. And that’s because in mature teams, everyone is prepared and empowered to take the lead.

So ask yourself a simple question: ‘if a stranger was to sit in the audience for our next team meeting would they see a team of leaders, timing their contributions, alternating between taking the lead and setting each other up to lead?’

And if not, take a leaf out of Ezra Collective’s book and commit to your rehearsal and practice time.

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