Leadership at the peak

The jazz experience

By George W Nyabadza

LAST week went past in a blur. I was on a meet-the-client tour that took me from South Africa’s Big Smoke, Johannesburg, to the chill of Bloem

fontein, and then to warm Durban, finally ending up in what some consider South Africa’s arts and culture centre, Cape Town. I made contact with an old Zimbabwean friend who promised to pick me up for dinner and a night out.


“7 pm sharp baba!” he said as he hung up the phone.


So trusting as I am, I told my colleagues to leave me out of their dinner plans. At 7 pm I was waiting at the reception eager to go. I never miss out on a free dinner. Two hours latter I was still waiting although by now I had found myself a nice warm place in front of the fireplace in the bar.


At 9.05 my date arrived, energised and enthusiastic as I remembered him when we last met in Harare. Five minutes latter, after profuse apologies and explanations about an unexpected meeting with some foreign business partners, we were on our way.


“Baba, tonight you will have the experience of your life. Someone has just managed to get us tickets for a live jazz festival and the show kicked off at 9 so we must rush!”


Now what had this to do with my dinner? By this time we were zooming down one of the Cape’s motorways and I had a sense we were over the speed limit. I furtively glanced at his speedo and sure enough we were cruising at close to 180 kilometres per hour. He didn’t seem to notice or care about the high speed. I guess if I was behind the controls of a 7-series BMW I would exhibit the same lack of concern.


I asked about the dinner and he laughed and said it would be taken care of.


The jazz festival was indeed an experience I will never forget. There must have been close to a thousand people of all races in the vast room. What stirred my interest was the intense attention that everyone paid to the music and musicians.


I have been to many musical shows before, none of them jazz. What I have noticed in other shows is that there are moments that everyone becomes engrossed in the music but then there are times when people are just milling around seemingly ignorant of the efforts of the musicians on stage.


Not so with this jazz festival. Every play was greeted with powerful enthusiasm and appreciation; be it a group, duet or solo effort. Each instrument played had its own magnetic effect on those present.


Every so often someone in the crowd would yell out with some emotional intensity that the first few times I would turn around to see who it was, but no one else seemed to notice or care. Each person was so engrossed in the music that it felt almost like they were experiencing a deep spiritual release that no one dared disturb. Sometimes there would be synchronised clapping, sometimes random clapping as the people responded to the music.


As I looked around I noticed that some of the people in our party would at times be leaning forward, eyes glued on the stage and at times they would be leaning back, eyes shut simply enjoying the music washing over them.


I have been thinking about that whole jazz experience quite a bit and I found myself asking a few questions: what is it about the jazz musician that captivates listeners. How is it that each stroke of the musical instrument can evoke such a response from the listeners? Are there lessons here for leaders, I wonder?


Is it possible for leaders to evoke deep mental, emotional and spiritual responses from their followers? Imagine that, everyone in the organisation so committed and focused on whatever it is that they do that their daily labours are not just a job but part and parcel of who they are.


As for my dinner, all I had was a boerewors roll and a coke but it was worth it.


lSouth African-based George W Nyabadza is the chief executive officer of Achievement Success Dynamics International. For more information on leadership development programmes please visit our website www.achievement-success.com or e-mail George on info@achievement-success.com