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Mario Rosa, Echos’ Partner & Head of Business Development, has recently relocated to Lisbon to expand Echos’ operations to European soil officially.

Rosa’s first order of business was an appearance at the warmup event for the third edition of Rock in Rio Innovation Week, hosted by Galp. During his Jazz & Leadership talk, he spoke not only about creative leadership but also about the importance of leaders to create a culture of trust that fosters vulnerability and allows for empathy, connection and collective genius.

After the talk, Rosa was interviewed by local publication Sapo. You can read the full interview below.

If you compare organisations with orchestras, you can compare the orchestra’s musicians to the organisation’s employees. The leaders, on the other hand, would be equivalent to the maestros – the conductors. Mario Rosa, a guest speaker at the third edition of Rock in Rio Innovation Week, contradicts this idea by proposing that we look at organisations as jazz bands playing a jam session.

Rosa defends that traditional organisational models that centralise power are “interesting but depend too much on predictability”. To the leaders of the future, the solution is a type of leadership that is dynamic and decentralised; a leadership that creates a safe space for collaborators to be creative, productive and prepared for the unpredictability of our imminent future.

Jazz: The Power of Improvisation and Unpredictability

Jazz can teach us more about leadership than we imagine. Rosa believes that jam sessions – an improvised activity where musicians, typically instrumentalists, play improvised solos and vamp on tunes – compare to dynamic leadership within an organisation. Dynamic leadership creates a creative and collaborative environment in which there is no place for fear of mistakes and, therefore, of taking risks; a place where the common goal is to “sound good together”.

“The jam session acts from the interaction of people with the improvise. These people aren’t competing against each other, but rather collaborating. This is why innovation emerges from what happens in the musical moments between solos and not during the solos themselves”, said Rosa during his talk. “Peter Drucker has a famous quote that says that the 21st Century organisation prototype is the symphonic orchestra because the conductor defines the subject where everyone is playing the same music. When we look at these models, it is interesting, but it relies too much on predictability”.

 

“Music is the sum of solos and not the best solo by itself. This is how innovation happens in organisations as well; it happens from the interaction between people.”

“Everything seems to lack in structure, but that isn’t actually the case. Jazz has a series of patterns and structures that are deeply seeded in the musicians. Because of their experience and training, they can make space for other elements in the music – that’s when the improvisation begins, the interaction with what emerges. Within an organisation, many new things emerge – a new competitor, new technology, new politics, a new law. All of that belongs in a context that cannot always be predicted”, he reinforces.

Jam Room

During his talk, Rosa challenged participants to listen to two songs and evaluate the dynamic interaction amongst the jazz trio: “Is there a clear leader in the group?”, “Does any instrument overpower the others?”, “How did the musicians deal with mistakes?”, were some of the questions he asked the public in an attempt to instigate reflection about dynamic leadership.

“Music is the sum of solos and not the best solo by itself. This is how innovation happens in organisations as well; it happens from the interaction between people“, explains Rosa.

“Jazz music only happens through the genius of the individuals, but as a group. For that to happen, the musicians have to be available. Innovation comes from the interaction between the unplanned, the uncertain, the thing that generates insecurity.”

 

“We need to prepare for it. It isn’t enough to put together technically good people if we don’t establish the interaction pattern, a common language amongst those people”, he explains. In jazz music, “the leadership changes as the context does, so it becomes dynamic”.

To reach dynamic leadership, it is necessary to “amp up the interactivity levels and the quality of interaction between people”, he ponders. “Jazz music only happens through the genius of the individuals, but as a group. For that to happen, the musicians have to be available. Innovation comes from the interaction between the unplanned, the uncertain, the thing that generates insecurity.”, he adds.

The Importance of Emotions

Not being afraid of emotions is essential for future leaders that wish to become dynamic in how they approach business challenges. “When we ignore our vulnerability, we can’t tap into our emotions. It’s important not to see vulnerability as a weakness, but as a strength that will make you confident to be more creative and achieve your full potential. This is a fundamental step”, he advises. In a dynamic leadership scenario, an environment is created to foster interaction; where they feel safe and unafraid. “Leadership means understanding how to create this trust circle, this space for creativity and vulnerability so that people can arrive at new places”, he says.

“When I look at an organisation and its communication amongst employees, I need – as a leader – to create and understand what are the best rules of engagement to create a new model that is not necessarily a model that requires a boss that orders people around. It is important that people can self-manage, that they can work with integrity, that they feel safe and responsible”, Rosa points out.

“The question is not ‘How can I make innovation happen?’ but ‘How can I create a context that allows for innovation to happen?’. The jazz logic gives us the opportunity to interact with what’s about to happen in the world. The speed of things is getting faster; the world is moving and if a company disconnects from it ends up becoming obsolete, and that’s the biggest risk”, reinforces Rosa.

*This article was published by Pessoas by Eco on January 20th 2020. This version of the article has been translated, edited and adapted by Rani Ghazzaoui Luke.

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