Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

7 Surprising Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Jazz

Discover 7 surprising lessons the world of Jazz that reveal how you can become a better leader for your team and organization.

The following is a guest piece by Laura Montgomery.

Ambiguity, risk, urgency, public scrutiny: Nothing is more inevitable.

Anxiety, negativity, fear, shame: Nothing is more sabotaging of success.

These statements are equally valid for a business leader—and for a jazz musician. Frank J. Barrett is intimately familiar with both of these roles. A management scholar and executive-education lecturer with a PhD in Organizational Behaviour, Barrett is also an accomplished jazz pianist and the author of “Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz”.

In Barrett’s view, business is a mess just like life on the jazz stage. You find yourself in situations you didn’t choose, dictated by the decisions and actions of others. You have countless options for moving forward, but no clear rules to tell you what the right answer is. The only way to succeed is through improvisation and innovation, rooted in a positive, unrestrained mindset.

After carefully studying tools and techniques that facilitate success both on the stage and in the boardroom, Barrett has identified seven principles of jazz improvisation that can help those who leads teams.

1. Mastering the art of unlearning
“We all have routines, habits based on what has worked for us before. But this can lead to us getting better and better at the wrong things—what I call skilled incompetence,” says Barrett. We need to be suspicious of our own patterns and be fully present in the moment, he advises, seeing seeing situations for what they are now and not what came before. Click here to continue reading »”7 Surprising Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Jazz”

What Jazz Taught Me About Leadership


When you grow up in Montreal, it’s almost a given that you become a fan of Jazz music. For those you might not know this, every summer Montreal hosts the world’s largest Jazz Festival in the world (I kid you not – we even hold the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest Jazz festival). It’s an annual event that’s been held here for over 35 years and one that I’ve been attending annually since I was in high school.

As such, I’m sure it’s not surprising to know that I often have the sounds of Coltrane, Monk, Peterson, and of course, Ella to name but a few wafting in my office as I sit down to pen my latest leadership insight or to develop my next leadership talk.

It was during one of these creative brainstorming sessions that I got to thinking about the connections that exist between leadership and Jazz. In particular, how each of these pursuits is often represented by this notion of having to take seemingly incongruent elements and helping to transform them into this cohesive, collective effort defined by a shared vision.

Indeed, the key to understanding Jazz is not to focus on the individual musicians and what they alone are playing. Rather, the beauty of Jazz is found in listening to how these musicians can create this sense of harmony and connectedness, even while playing what at times might sound more like a competing mixture of contradictions.

It’s the same truth that underlies how we can succeed at leadership in today’s faster paced, increasingly connected global world. Namely, successful leadership involves connecting our collective efforts to a vision we all understand [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter]. That we demonstrate the links that exist between what our employees do and that larger vision that we all want to be a part of.

So in this vein of what Jazz reveals about the necessary truths about leading in today’s work environment, I’d like to share the following three lessons from the Jazz world on how we can be the kind of leader our employees need in order to be successful in their collective efforts. Click here to continue reading »”What Jazz Taught Me About Leadership”

3 Steps To Help Get Your Leadership Groove On

Recently, I read a wonderful post by fellow leadership blogger Gwyn Teatro where she wrote about what Jazz can teach leaders about the value of improvisation in their organizations. Being a big fan of this musical genre (one of my daughters’ drawings found on my site is of the blue cat mascot from our city’s famous Jazz festival), her piece really resonated with me and it also got me thinking about some of the other lessons that Jazz offers to the field of leadership.

Granted, for some Jazz can sound like a mass of contradictions, especially in those sections where the various musicians play their own variations/motifs. And yet, if we focus less on the separate elements and instead listen to the piece as a whole, there’s a definite connectedness that can be heard despite these individual expressions.

I think this is where the Jazz analogy plays well in terms of today’s business world. For the last few decades, we’ve been used to the classical orchestra model of leadership – with a single conductor at the helm directing all the players to create and repeat the same message over and over. However, what many businesses are beginning to discover now is that it’s no longer feasible or desirable to maintain such rigidity of structure; that what’s needed instead is a greater fluidity and movement where the message can change and ebb and flow.

With this in mind, here are three lessons Jazz offers on how to keep your leadership in step with today’s ever-changing world: Click here to continue reading »”3 Steps To Help Get Your Leadership Groove On”

Jazz and Montreal – Celebrating a Major Milestone

If Paris is “the city of lights”, then without question Montreal is the city of festivals.  And the one festival that best demonstrates this has to be Montreal’s world renowned jazz festival, the “Festival International de Jazz de Montreal”.  Of course, this year’s event was certainly bigger than previous ones as the festival was celebrating its 30th anniversary of bringing this musical genre out onto the streets of Montreal and into the various clubs and theatres throughout the city.  But the festival’s organizers were not the only ones celebrating a major milestone with this year’s edition of the jazz festival.  In fact, this year’s festival also marked my 20th consecutive year of attending this amazing celebration of the world of jazz.  And just as the jazz festival itself has evolved over the years, so too has my own personal experiences being an attendee of this event.

Walking around this year’s festival grounds, I couldn’t help but reminisce about how I first started attending this event as Click here to continue reading »”Jazz and Montreal – Celebrating a Major Milestone”