"Kids" books and teaching leadership

Posted by jlubans on February 28, 2011  •  Leave comment (0)

Hardly "kids" books! I used these two children's literature titles in teaching my Latvian library management students about strong followers, sheep, yes men, survivors, & nodders, too.

20110228-king-bidgoods.jpg King Bidgoods in the Bathtub. (Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood).
This richly illustrated book demonstrates not only how the least among us can be the most effective follower, it also demonstrates that the simplest yet bravest - solution is often the best. Its Occams razor made explicit: When you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras. Who empowered the page, the follower who pulled the plug in the kings bathtub?

After all have failed, rank matters less. When things are desperate enough - the king won't get out of the tub - we will ask others the quiet, unnoticed staffer - for help or they will speak up on their own. Of course, the plug pulling page has the most to lose. The rich kow-towing nobility have name, fame, fortune, The page could be dismissed or worse. Why did the page speak up? Where did his courage come from? What if the King really liked being in the tub. Is the page brave or foolhardy? He could have lost his head - just like we could lose our jobs if we take on a toxic boss in public! Here the class listens to a team presentation on the king and the heroic page:
20110303-presentation king.jpeg

20110228-tippy toe.jpgTippy-Toe Chick, GO! By George Shannon, illustrated by Laura Dronzek
The story: Hen takes chickens daily to garden to snack on bugs. Little chick is a wanderer and adventurer, not willing to settle for the daily routine. One day a chained-up dog keeps them from the garden. Were hungry, whine if chickens can whine - the chickens. Hen says, Were out of luck, well never get past the dog. Big Chicken says Ill take care of it. Dog barks. Big Chick runs back to Mom. Middle Chick scolds the dog. The dog barks and Middle Chick takes shelter behind Momma Chick. Little Chick runs at dog, stopping short when she feels his breath. Little Chick runs sideways and the poor dog runs around tree and ties himself up. Time to eat, says little chick. The effective follower concept was clearly demonstrated by this student team:
20110303-follower work book1.JPG

Here's another team's more literal match up of this book to Kelley's follower chart:
20110303-literal follower.jpeg

A "thumb-able" book

Posted by jlubans on February 22, 2011  •  Leave comment (2)

Eric Shoaf's review is out in February 2011
College & Research Libraries News
vol. 72 no. 2 102-103.

Eric's insightful analysis concludes:
"Lubans book is filled with advice and messages ..., and it is both readable and thumb-able, meaning you can just open it up, start reading, and become absorbed into the narrative. There may not be a better recommendation than that for professional reading."

Jazz and teamwork

Posted by jlubans on February 07, 2011  •  Leave comment (0)

What does a jazz group have in common with a classical orchestra like the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra? Well, besides not having a conductor, a few other things come to mind, like the essential need for intense - in-the-moment - communication among the group. And from time to time, for soloists to take the lead and assume much of the responsibility for the music.

And, when done soloing, the player has to step back into his or her player role and support, intuitively it seems, the creative sound of the next soloist. While the players know there will be solos for each of them, the exact shape and sound, even duration, are not planned out. So, while support is essential to rounding out the sound of the soloist, it is not until the solo is underway, that the support players figure out how to offer their support. While our work world routines are planned out and predictable, the exciting and innovative pieces - the creative are not. How do we support each other during those moments of uncertainty? Does the music stop?

On one of my first nights in Riga, I observed a jam session in the student club at the Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music featuring my Fulbright colleague, Chris Beaty, pictured here taking the lead as the middle saxophone:
20110207-Chris Beaty.jpg

The combo, which sounded great, was composed of five saxophones, one drum set player, one electric bass guitar, and one keyboard player, a total of 8, a good size in my experience for any team. Four of the saxophonists were faculty members, the remainder were music students, including one high school musician.

Chris told me the group had practiced twice, but not as a complete group. True, each knew the agenda Nic, the faculty member saxophonist on the left in the picture took on the role of organizer and the equivalent of first chair, or first violin. In keeping with the extemporaneous nature of certain kinds of jazz, he was a laid back leader even though at the start and end of each piece he was the lead communicator.

The drummer, Chris told me, has an equally important role because he controls the tempo, the beat. Obviously, Nic and the drummer would have to be in synch (sharing the leadership) for the music to be as good as it was. So, who was leading? With a conductor, theres hardly any question its the guy (more often than not) who does not play an instrument.

With a jazz group, the turn taking and distribution of musical roles that I observed, makes the leaders role ambiguous and more challenging than being the up-front leader of an orchestra. It is less easy to lead when your leadership encourages others to take the lead. Perhaps that is what Max De Pree was referring to in this quote from his Jazz Leadership, published by Dell in 1992:

A jazz band is an expression of servant leadership. The leader of a jazz band has the beautiful opportunity to draw the best out of the other musicians. We have much to learn from jazz-band leaders, for jazz, like leadership, combines the unpredictability of the future with the gifts of individuals.

At that Riga jam session, I only got to see the peripheral aspects of the teamwork and shared leadership, but I came away with wanting to know more about jazz organizations and their kinship to work groups that produce their own versions of great music.