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Leadership lessons: what I learned from the music

By Rivadávia Drummond*

The year was 1995 and I had decided to put together the best pop, funk and soul band in Belo Horizonte. I already had a track-record as a musician, having had some formative experiences in the city, such as with Markão & Banda, in Western House Neon, Supertramp Co., in Mr Beef, Geraes Big Band, of the Music School of UFMG, and the Symphony Orchestra of MG, in the Palácio das Artes.

Assembling the dream team required unique relationship skills, besides the understanding that any organization – even orchestras and bands – are political arenas (have you ever seen Fellini’s film Orchestra Rehearsal?). In the music business, good relationships start with the recognition by others that you are competent as a musician and can handle things well in the most diverse settings.

My choice of team was clinical: three singers, a brass section (sax, trumpet, trombone), bass, keyboard, guitar and drums (I was the drummer). Little did I know that I had already become a “headhunter” when I got in my car and drove all over the metropolitan area of Belo Horizonte to talk to talents.

I remember neighborhoods I had never heard of, churches and religions I didn’t know and shacks which baffled me as to how so many people could possibly there live together. Then I had to sell my dream, tell the story a thousand times (yes, he who tells a tale embellishes it!), show where the dream would take us and how we would get there.

Desires bigger than means

After failures and successes, the team was recruited. The new problem hitting me was the old economic dilemma of “desires bigger than means”. Most of the musicians didn’t have the money to invest or the extra income to cover all the costs involved. Like every entrepreneur, I took money from my own pocket and invested countless hours of work that ranged from teaching English to the singers, to finding sponsors to help with the costs.

Therefore, I got someone to sponsor the dance costumes, the band’s website (not a common thing at the time and expensive), the gym and even a choreographer to teach some dance steps to all the robots involved. Despite the exhausting weekly rehearsals, the reinforcement of teamwork and the management of some “diva behaviour”, the main thing was still missing: a good schedule of shows that would reassure the guys with the certainty that there would be money in everyone’s pocket. I managed to get a season at the Circuito Circo Bar, a very popular venue in Belo Horizonte at the time.

I learned through love and pain about leadership

Countless lessons come to mind as I write these lines. Victories and failures, countless mistakes and lessons learned: necessity truly is the mother of invention. I learned through love and pain about leadership, relationships, talent management, teamwork and political articulation, among countless other topics beyond the scope of these paragraphs. There were moments of euphoria and of feeling we were accomplishing something great, rejoicing to hear the great sound of that great team playing together. There were other moments of deep discouragement and of feeling alone, rowing against the tide. Isn’t that the life of an entrepreneur? Well, no school teaches it that way.

Rivadávia Drummond speaking at a library

Rivadávia Drummond is one of the greatest names in world education

The band broke up a little more than two years after its creation, overtaken by new musical trends such as pagode and axé that quickly – and ad nauseam – became the preference of live-music audiences. During those years as a musician, I also gave music lessons to pay the bills and even today, I am impressed by how this sharpened my didactics and my understanding of multiple pedagogies. These are skills which guide me today as a father, teacher, executive and counselor.

However, the question I am always faced with remains to be answered: “What is the best thing about the experience with music?” I answer without a moment’s hesitation: after a while in the band, the original singer couldn’t take the pressure and decided to quit; in the selection and hiring of the new singer, I found the love of my life, my partner in crime since 1996, Carem Rocha Soares. And you, what have you learned from the arts?

Rivadávia Drummond is post-doctorate from the Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto, Canada; doctorate, master’s and bachelor’s degrees from UFMG. Member of the Board of Directors of Vitru Ltd (Nasdaq/VTRU), clinical professor at the W P Carey School of Business at Arizona State University (USA) and associate professor at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong.

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