The Art of Governing: 5 lessons I Learned from Rock & Roll

April 12, 2016

Deke Copenhaver

Leadership Focus is written by Deke Copenhaver, Principal with Copenhaver Consulting LLC. The former mayor of Augusta, a triathlete, writer and runner, Deke is focused on transforming great ideas into great actions.
I’ve always been fascinated by the transformative impact music can have on helping to shape the world around us. From creating a cultural dialogue for each new generation to inspiring and motivating people to take action or to join a cause, music has always provided common ground for people to rally around.

As a lifelong fan of rock and roll there are a multitude of songs, bands and artists who’ve impacted me on a personal level while helping to give me a unique perspective on the world around me. From listening to the raw power and dramatic flair of Led Zeppelin in my youth to the thundering, unadulterated guitar riffs of some of my current favorite artists like Jack White and the Black Keys, along the way I began to realize rock can teach you a lot about life.

Governing, like rock and roll, can be a little unwieldy and it isn’t always pretty to watch. Yet focusing on the art of doing it in innovative ways can produce a final product which can stand the test of time if you work at it long enough. So here are five lessons I learned from my love of music that should be able to help you govern whatever organization you may be leading a bit more efficiently and effectively.
1. Be Original
When focused on helping to govern any organization, don’t be afraid to be yourself as opposed to trying to be what you think people expect someone in your role to look or act like. Like musicians we should all feel free to learn from the best players who’ve come before us but at the end of the day we need to put our stamp on our positions and make them our own unique compositions.

2. Be Collaborative
Like great music, good governance is best developed through the collaborative process where every member of your team is given a voice and a chance to contribute something to the effort. There may be a few sour notes along the way, but remember... you’re only as good as the players around you and a true commitment to the collaborative process lifts everyone’s performance level to new heights.

3. Be Creative
All too often organizations fall prey to the “but we’ve always done it this way” mindset where the same action gets the same result. Don’t be afraid to let your creative juices flow and take an experimental approach towards problem solving within your structure of governance. Some of the most classic albums of all time resulted from artists willing to take an uncharted course and we can get the same result in our governing efforts if we simply commit ourselves to trying something new.

4. Be Bold
I’ve always been a fan of embracing the big idea and getting out in front on issues as opposed to bringing up the rear on them. Good governance and great music share a willingness to take risks and to not shy away from the front of the stage. Being bold in your governing approach may not play well with everyone, but its been my experience that it will ultimately win you more fans than you’ll ever lose.

5. Tour Relentlessly!
There are overnight sensations in the world of music but not many. More often than not bands have built a following by relentlessly touring at the grassroots level. Using this same approach is essential in governing effectively. Staying in tune and in touch with the people who are impacted by whatever governance role you may serve in is the most effective way to ensure a broad base of support and success in whatever endeavors you may undertake.

Good governance, whether it be in local government, the corporate world or running a nonprofit, is key to the overall success of any organization we may find ourselves a part of. In the end its simply a process full of highs and lows with a multitude of tempo changes along the way.

At times the twists and turns can take your breath away or hopefully, when done right, leave your audience wanting more. And just like great music, when the right players are involved and the right note hits, it can catch people up in the moment and make your organization rise to new heights by making it greater than the sum of its parts.

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