You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

How Jazz Music Prepared Me for Life as a CEO While we think of executives as rigid, driven and all business and musicians appear to be casual and more free spirited, these two roles have a lot more in common that you think.

By Luc Burgelman

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Shutterstock

Last week, I found myself in an Italian restaurant playing improvised jazz music with a few other musicians. Despite what it might sound like, I'm not a full-time musician. I'm actually CEO of a big data startup, a far cry from my musical moonlighting gig.

But as I played, I couldn't help but connect the dots between the two roles. On paper, CEOs and jazz musicians may seem like they are on opposite ends of the spectrum and appear to have very little in common. We think of executives as rigid, driven, and all business, while musicians appear to be casual and more free spirited.

Related: 7 Risks Every Entrepreneur Must Take

However, I believe there are many similarities between the two:

Willing to take the risks.

First, being an entrepreneur is inherently risky, and it's an unpredictable road to trek; you never know how it will turn out. You do know it is an adventurous endeavor and you are driven to succeed. The same can be said with jazz music. When the band starts jamming, they never know exactly how it will end. They put trust in their instincts, skills and fellow musicians, and then go for it.

Manic about the goal.

Musicians and CEOs both have an unrelenting drive to succeed and both know that the way to get there is by surrounding yourself with the right people. In my band, for instance, I want to surround myself with the most skilled, complementary musicians I can find so that we'll sound the best. The same can be said in the corporate world. For any company to succeed, it needs good, quality people that a leader can trust to do their jobs. It only takes one person to negatively impact the "sound" and set the rest of the team off course.

Related: It's Your Vision: Help Them See It

Setting the vision.

All CEOs and entrepreneurs have a distinct vision for where they want their company to go. The same can be said for musicians as well. As a result, it's incredibly important to communicate that vision from the get-go to make sure your employees (and fellow musicians) are all on the same page. When everyone is rallied around a set goal, the path to that goal is more streamlined and achievable.

Relying on resources.

Like I mentioned earlier, surrounding yourself with the right people is one of the most important steps an entrepreneur (and musician) can take. When good people are in place, a CEO can foster a culture of trust because everyone has the necessary capabilities. This type of environment ultimately empowers the employees to do their best work.

The outcome of the group is always bigger than the sum of the individual parts.

My musical background helped me understand that there is very little we should try to control in work, and in life. When I play jazz, I always know what the finished product will sound like, but I never really know what is going to happen exactly. I trust in my own training and that of my band mates and just relax and let it happen. That's a lesson I've transferred into my life as a CEO. Sure, as a CEO it's difficult to relinquish control, but I realized what I can control are the hiring and vision. After that, you must foster an environment where your employees can be creative and ultimately make choices while implementing the work that drives toward the desired outcome.

Related: 6 Steps for Creating a Culture of Significance From the Ground Up

Luc Burgelman

CEO of NGDATA

Luc is a co-founder and the CEO of NGDATA, a big data analytics and enterprise data management company. Prior to NGDATA, he co-founded Porthus, which delivered cloud-based solutions that IPO’d in 2006 and was acquired by Descartes Systems Group in 2010. 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

A Non-Profit Newspaper Published a Column Criticizing Facebook. Then Meta Blocked All of Its Posts.

Facebook's communications chief said that the posts were removed because of "a mistaken security issue."

Business News

Elon Musk Reveals When Tesla Will Release Its First Robotaxi

Tesla's CEO says the fully autonomous Tesla taxi is arriving soon — in 122 days.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Walmart Shoppers May Be Eligible for $500 After Settlement

Walmart shoppers who purchased weighted goods or bagged citrus in the U.S. or Puerto Rico from late 2018 through early 2024 might be eligible for a share of a $45 million settlement.

Business News

Total Solar Eclipse 2024 Live Feed: Where, When and How to Watch the 2024 Eclipse

Here's what to know about the total eclipse 2024 and a live stream from NASA.

Business News

OpenAI Reportedly Used More Than a Million Hours of YouTube Videos to Train Its Latest AI Model

YouTube CEO Neal Mohan said last week that if OpenAI used YouTube videos to train text-to-video generator Sora, that would be a "clear violation" of the terms of use.