This is the first post in a series on leadership lessons from music.

It is easy in leadership to make things complicated, because complicated often means we have not done the hard work of removing the unnecessary. As leaders, we are responsible for creating space for others to succeed. But this cannot happen if things are complicated and busy.

Musical Space

This principle is something that I have learned over the years as a musician. I first began playing guitar and drums in middle school, and I have continued to play since then. Over the years, I have performed in a wide variety of settings. Most of those performances have been with a full band (guitars, drums, keyboards, singers, bass guitar; you get the idea).

One of the ways you can spot immature bands is in the busyness of their music. It almost feels chaotic with so much going on; so chaotic, in fact, than the music is not enjoyable.

Great musicians know the phrase “less is more” rings true in their music. It is far more difficult as a musician to hold back and create space for the other band members. While showing off may be great for the individual, it hurts the band overall.

But why is it difficult? Because it is fun to get excited and demonstrate everything we know. It is fun to appear talented by making things complicated. Yet in the end, all that happens is chaos in the music and frustration from the band members.

These same circumstances happen in leadership. As leaders, it is easy for us to demonstrate what we have learned. We are eager to display our skills to all, but instead of making things better, we make things far more complicated.

Leadership, like music, is about holding back so that others have a great opportunity to succeed. When we intentionally restrain ourselves for the sake of our team, we are actually providing opportunities for other people to step up and contribute with their strengths.

Creating space in leadership is most helpful when the area around the space is stable. A great band can create musical space because there is a lot of stability in the music already. Things are not chaotic because a strong foundation exists already.

Creating opportunities for your team requires that you have a strong foundation around them. Once they know they have a stable support system in place, then they can feel confident when they begin to work in the space that has been created for them.

When Aerosmith creates space for lead guitarist Joe Perry to play, great music happens. When you provide your team with opportunities to succeed, great work happens.

So today, be the leader that creates a great space for your team to contribute and succeed.

And since it is Friday, enjoy a little Justin Timberlake.