Drumming and Leadership


I did not know much about drums until I attended the drum café, albeit briefly at the monthly learning and development roundtable. Did you know a drum has three main features – a tone, a muffle and a slap? These key features when drummed produce different sounds. Drums have been in use since way back and mainly used for communication and community building back in the hey days.
You must be wondering then, how drums and leadership go hand in hand. We had a session on the basics of drumming – which included drumming with rhythmic tones with different kinds of drums and percussion instruments. I have tried to link the drumming to leadership in this article from different angles. Have a look.
You need to prepare to assume leadership roles, same way the drum café team prepared to have the workshop – from the drums and accompanying instruments to the borne fire that was used to heat the drums. Preparation takes time and effort to ensure things are done efficiently and effectively, the path for leadership has to be created just as time and venue for the drum café was.
When drumming are you speaking the same language? The leader of the drumming exercise could be saying one thing and the drummers do something different. Same applies in leadership. When leading your pack, you ought to speak the same language to them – this entails effective communication in a language similar to leader and the employee, otherwise the efforts to drive staff to achieve objectives and targets become futile as a result of this barrier.
Levels of understanding and confidence
In leadership we relate to the maturity level and readiness of staff to take up specific responsibilities and this is pegged to their level of understanding and eventually confidence. When drumming there were certain participants that were not confident to use the bass drum but more comfortable with the percussion instrument, for some, the levels of receiving and conceptualizing instructions varied differently, for example.
The lead drummer made us drum slowly, checking our understanding and gradually increasing and decreasing the tempo. As a leader in an organization you not only determine the speed but also dictate the beat. Teams are comprised of persons with different levels of understanding and confidence and it is the role of the leader to ensure a balance between the two disparities to ensure unity and co-ordination.
In this sense, what the leader focuses on is what gets done. When can the leader say start and stop?
Head vs heart
When drumming is it coming from the head or the heart? As we drummed, some could feel the passion of the drums and their hands did what the heart told them while others ensured they memorized the rhythm in order to understand.
Leadership as some may argue is inborn while others say it is learned. Leaders lead from the heart and this comes naturally from within.

Listening vs watching or doing
Great leaders are aware of others, they really listen and tune in to the beat that is going on in their environment rather than just listen to their rhythm. As a leader then ask yourself, how aware are you of what is going on? Is your team still following or have you lost them along the way?
Fitting in vs sticking out
Like in any organization, there are those that would like to fit in while others want to stick out, no one wants to be out of rhythm whatever the circumstance. While drumming, in certain instances, there were those that drummed out of tune and this affected the rhythm, which is naturally accepted. Certain people were learning to drum for the first time and mistakes were inevitable but the lead drummer guided them back on track.
As a leader you might fit in or stick out, everyone has their own style of leadership and you cannot always make everyone happy with your style. There are decisions that you take that are appreciated while others are not but these are made in the interest of the organization and the team.
Listening to others rhythms or to yours/Co-ordination
Great leaders are aware that although it is often them conducting, it is the team that creates the music. In this sense as a leader, how often do you acknowledge the contributions of others? As a leader you can learn from your teams and ensure you have the team in a safe and comfortable environment to make and have their contributions considered.
Leaders therefore monitor closely where the rhythm has gone off track and guide their teams back to the rhythm using feedback.

About Irene Kirimi

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