Office of Culture and Experience

Music and Leadership

February 1, 2017 • Leadership

Mike Richardson, a faculty member,  recently shared with me an article titled, “What Great Leadership and Music have in Common.1” This article combines seemingly unrelated elements finding common themes and connections based on lived experiences.  Focused on commonalities, the author describes how music is a metaphor for leadership. He states the seven following lessons:

1. A leader is both singer and songwriter

Capture people’s heads and hearts. As a leader, you have a responsibility not only to solve intellectual problems, but also demonstrate care.  This ties directly to Our Value, Serve Others First.  Consider, what have you done lately to demonstrate compassion, care and humility? What you say, the lyrics, and how you say it, the music, matters.

2. Make sure everyone is on the same sheet of music

I was in the drumline in high school, and one summer, earned the nickname of the “tick box.”  I was out of sync, and everyone knew it. With drumming, one person can turn music into noise.  Leaders set the vision, and it crucial for each of team member to understand and fulfill his or her role to achieve that vision.  On our team, one out of sync person can turn our achievements, our music, into noise.  We each have an obligation to our community to inspire one another to be more, collectively, than the sum of our individual parts.

3. Develop a simple theme – then repeat it

Great songs have a simple chorus that repeats. Once everyone is on the “same sheet of music,” a leader can help embed the vision by being specific about what they mean and then overcommunicating the message2.  Repetition is key to ensuring that everyone continues in the same direction and for team alignment.  Samuel Johnson, an English writer, has been attributed with saying, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”

4. Get the right players around you

Here at UNTHSC, we have developed a values-based hiring process to recruiting and hiring individuals who are aligned with both the competencies required for the role as well as Our Values.  Character matters when hiring the right people for our team.

5. Let others shine

The focus of every leader should be on the “message and the music.” Great leaders build up those around them. As the conductor, they allow the orchestra to shine.  When was the last time you recognized someone for doing a great job?  Have you given out a High 5 card lately or nominated someone for Valubility of the Month?

6. Cultivate commitment and enthusiasm; they’re contagious

Compliance is doing something because you have to do it; commitment is doing something because you believe in it.  Cultivating commitment requires leaders to help individuals see how their daily tasks are supporting significant changes in the lives of others.  The work we do here creates solutions for a healthier community.

7. Commit yourself to a bigger cause than yourself

Leaders help their team see how they fit into the bigger picture.  They connect individual roles to supporting something larger than themselves.  Followers will join you once they see your commitment to a greater purpose and not simply a commitment to self.  How committed are you to achieving our results outlined on the SEE_2020 Roadmap? How can you help your team connect to the SEE_2020 Roadmap?


In summary:

“The key to understanding the music of leadership is to understand that really good leaders know how to manage emotions as well as direction. In effect, they are in tune with those around them. And when the time comes to sing a new song so that they can take people in a new direction, they do just that.” – Jim Crupi




1.Crupi, J. (2016, October 18). What great leadership and music have in common. Ted.Com. Retrieved from 

2.Lencioni, P. (2012). The advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


-Jessie Johnson