I’ve been on the hunt for a saxophone. I’m itching to play and perform again – despite having nightmares of endless practice and hours spent memorizing scales.

The life of a musician is the life a leader.  I believe this fundamental mindset is the reason why there are thousands of books on leadership and management , but few leaders.

The start of becoming a leader was recognizing I was not one.   And like the first time I picked up the saxophone and awkwardly fingered the first few half-notes of Mary Had a Little Lamb – I was years and thousands of hours of practice away from sounding like Paul Desmond performance of Take Five.  But the moment I recognized my skills and knew where I wanted to go – practice I did.  Becoming a leader is not going to happen over night.  If you are failing at leading


Read a good leadership book and begin practicing the principles.  Make them yours by visualizing how those principles are played out in various decisions you need to make.  Memorize those principles and reword them to your own vernacular.  Honestly, the principles of all leadership books are the same and the authors have done just this exercise.

Learn to follow a conductor

There are no leaders that aren’t lead.  A CEO answers to a Board of Directors, an entrepreneur follows their customers. Seek the guidance of mentors.  Like a conductor they interpret musical pieces and will guide you to playing better.

Learn to be part of the band

Becoming a saxophonist, taught me to read music while keeping an eye on a conductor in my peripheral vision and even more importantly it taught me to be part of a sax section.  Being part of the team is fundamental to leading.  Your peers make you successful and learning to appreciate them – ultimately helps you to lead them.

Be Patient

It will not happen over night.  You may have to forego that promotion you were hopng for.  Nothing is worse than watching someone who has risen to a level beyond their leadership capability.  You can be envious of their paycheck and position, but the devastating affects on the organization and individuals will take years to overcome.  They know they are failing and if not – the sudden firing will be an eye-opener.

I still believe the best advice I received was to go lead in a volunteer organization.  Learning to lead people who do not have to follow you forces you to learn to influence.