I play the piano for a small church every Saturday morning. I am the first to admit I’m no virtuoso and I’ve been known to drop the beat, miss a phrase or drop out completely. In my true form, I have even have knocked my music off onto the keys during prayer “ker plunk”-more than once. One morning it dawned on me, “ I have to lead from up here….” Let me explain.
William Purkey has the beloved quote,
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching.
Love like you’ll never be hurt.
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
I would add, play like no one is singing.
With a small congregation-often I can’t hear anybody singing during our weekly song service. First service is often sparsely populated and most are not feeling robust enough to project a melody at 9:30 in the morning. To compensate, I will play softer so I can hear the lyrics. However, a crazy phenomenon happens in less polished musicians as myself- playing softer leads to playing s l o w e r. The tempo drags, the volume is low and everyone is unsure. The music is bringing everyone down! This is not how to get your worship on!
One particularly painful hymn -it occurred to me that this is insane! Somebody has to take ownership and lead. So, I set the tempo, I cranked the volume and played that hymn like I would sing it, despite my inability to hear one little voice.
It may seem like a no duh…of course the pianist leads. Could it be though we apply the same backwards logic in our own lives? I believe when it comes to leadership a lot of us do the very same thing-we wait for the crowd to lead us. The crazy thing is that you have the gift, the platform (in this case the bench) the desire and are the one that should setting the influence. Rather, many of us sit in our churches, workplace, our own families and prefer to fade into the crowd. We wait for others to set the tempo.
Play like no one is singing.
Leadership is not intended just for your boss or CEO. You were created to lead and express how God made you and to use your gifts. In a culture where we are tired, distracted and frankly lazy, leadership is lacking. Much of what I’ve learned about leadership that works for me-I’ve learned from the piano bench. Maybe you too can “play like no one is singing.”
- Leading takes courage to put yourself out there and play even if you can’t hear the singing. Sometimes there is no feed back and you feel alone. Often in leadership there is no definable current and no clear go. If you wait for the crowd to lead you-chaos will follow. Choose to lead and the people will follow.
- If you are interested in what is going on around you, or you have an idea but you are intimidated because you are not the expert in the room- educate yourself. Never let money or lack of education keep you from getting involved. Volunteer then get crackin’ on google! I have loved piano music since I was a little girl. My parents could not afford a piano and probably rightly questioned my commitment to it as a kid. But when I found a little air organ in the trash, I dragged that thing home and taught myself to play using TV themes. Only you can inspire yourself to learn and you have to grab opportunities to do so when you see them. Google and youtube are your friends. Tools surround you-you just need to pick them up.
- You are going to make mistakes, drop the beat, get lost and play the wrong note-but don’t stop. In leadership, we will make mistakes. Don’t give up when things don’t go as planned. Don’t walk away. Quickly moving through a mistake makes less of an impression than radio silence.
- When you make a “ker plunk” just smile. Humility and the ability to laugh at yourself will go far. Nobody enjoys a leader that believes himself to be infallible-because it’s just not honest. Embrace your mistakes.
- When you are willing to play-don’t let critics get you down. Some will complain about your rhythm, your song choice and your vibe-but I guarantee they are the ones that would never play if given the chance.
- Don’t’ be afraid to say I don’t know that song-because fake it till you make it doesn’t always work. There is no shame in admitting you don’t know and pretending you do is usually quite obvious to those around you. But don’t back down from the challenge learn that song for next time.
- Recognize that there is some one always more gifted than you, but compensate by having the courage to share what gifts you have, even when it’s not convenient for you. Half of leadership is being willing to show up. People learn that they can count on you. Years ago I attended a church with an amazingly talented pianist-I envied her. She could smoke me and did. Sadly, she would rarely play because of a laundry list of excuses. Who do you think became the one people came to for help? Don’t let the fact that you think someone is better than you-keep you from stepping up because I guarantee you are needed!
9. Discern if you are the one that should be leading. It seemed obvious the gal at the piano should command the room but I had it backwards and was taking cues from the wrong places. We all have been in situations, frustrated that good people were not getting involved. Maybe that person is you, and it’s time to jump in.
- Music is not considered a team sport, but it is a collaborative exercise much like life. Be intuitive to what is happening around you-it’s ok to adjust your tempo, play softer so the other guy can shine and support the moment with accompaniment. Leadership isn’t always about being the loudest person in the room.
- When it comes to music, the more the better. What is better than one piano? Two of course! I recently had a friend step down from leadership because she saw someone else expressing theirs. Friends!? The more the better!
I believe as much as we are created to connect with music..we are created to lead. We lead by showing up, being vulnerable to share our ideas and having the courage to seek them to fruition. Stepping in, even when we don’t feel equipped.
Lead in your homes. Lead in your friendships. Lead in your workplace, church and in your marriage. Let the music move ya! Lead.
It’s not just sports that teaches life lessons! I’d love to hear how your instrument has inspired you in life. “Pipe up” ( lol ) in the comments!