This weekend we visited our college sophomore for Parent’s weekend. Aside from being a whole lot of fun to be invited into your young adult child’s first “home,” there was an opportunity to experience college life on campus. We attended an evening of music showcasing a dozen or so singing groups in the “a cappella,” style. This format showcases the purity of the human voice and the rich, dense harmonies that can be woven into song exclusively with the human voice and no instrumentalist. No surprise, it got me thinking about leadership.

I began thinking about how leadership is like an “a cappella” performance.

While there is sometimes a desire to stand out and showcase what an individual can do, the strength of “a cappella” comes in the singers’ abilities to blend their voices, rather than to showcase any one voice.

We often think of leaders as needing to stand out, or even apart from the rest of the team. After all, they are responsible for creating and setting vision and seeing the possibilities, often before others see them. For this leaders need to be able to have the 30,000 foot perspective. That perspective can feel as if they are standing out or even away from others. They need to be the ones that can rally the troops “over the hill.”

Yet the most influential leaders also know how to blend.
They know there is an appropriate time for standing out and apart from the group. Yet a leader who only knows how to “solo” will be limited in the ability to engage others in productive, creative relationships that are sustainable.
People do their best work in teams when they can take their individual strengths and work towards blending.

Leaders may fear that blending will cause their value to diminish. In fact, the opposite is true. The ability to bring out the best in others, even when they cannot see their own best is the sign of a true leader.

Learning to lead by blending requires the ability to detach from being right, being in control, being the one with the most or best answers.

The value for a leader is that the whole truly is greater than the sum of the parts. The many can often do what the one cannot. However, without singular efforts, the many cannot reach their full potential impact.

Download an “a cappella” singing group of your choice and enjoy the intense, rich sounds of the many sounding as if they are one.

Author's Bio: 

Susan S. Freeman, MBA, ACC, NCC
Executive Success Strategist
Author and Speaker
Founder, Step Up Leader

Susan Freeman is author of the new book, “Step Up Now: 21 Powerful Principles for People Who Influence Others,” and the Founder of Step Up Leader. She is an experienced and respected Executive Success Strategist whose passion is helping entrepreneurial leaders go from “stuck” to “unstuck.” She has created a unique system that helps people access their emotional intelligence so they can lead powerfully and authentically. Susan has helped clients in diverse industries and roles obtain passion, clarity, and exceptional results.

She received her B.A. in Psychology from Wellesley College and her M.B.A. in Marketing from Columbia University in New York. She brings to her clients more than 25 years of strategic marketing, non-profit, and retained executive search experience in London and New York. She received her coach training and certification from The Newfield Network. Susan is an accredited coach with the International Coach Federation, as well as an MSP-certified business facilitator.

Susan is a native of Kansas City and resides in Tampa, FL. She is an active member of The Athena Society and a Leadership Tampa Alumna. Committed to education, Susan has served on several educational boards at the secondary and university level. Her global passion is developing young women entrepreneurial leaders in Rwanda, where she is currently involved with The Akilah Institute, a school that empowers young women with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to become leaders.