The Lead Sheet

The Lead Sheet
By Barry Winders

Everybody knows that effective communication is essential to leadership success and to the other person’s leadership challenge. Sometimes all we get from leaders is the “lead” sheet and it is up to us to make something of it.

You say, “What is a lead sheet?” Let me explain. Last week I listened to a radio interview of singer and composer Richard Carpenter (63), of the famous pop group of the 70’s and 80’s The Carpenters. He is now promoting a new CD album of their greatest hits called “Carpenters Anthology” celebrating 40 pop hits by this beloved sibling duo on the 40th anniversary when they signed a record label with A/M Records.

Of particular interest to me was not Richard Carpenter’s comments about his late sister Karen, who died tragically from complications due to anorexia in 1983, but how they inherited possession of the famous hit “Close To You.” “Close To You” was a gift via Burt Bacharach in April 1969. Bacharach gave Carpenter the lead sheet, which musically only contains the basic melody, a few lyrics, and the chord changes.

According to Wikipedia, a lead sheet is a form of music notation that specifies the essential elements of a popular song: the melody, lyrics and harmony. The lead sheet does not describe the chord voicing, voice leading, bass line or other aspects of the accompaniment. These are specified b an arranger or improvised by a performer, and are aspects of the arrangement or performance of a song, rather than a part of the song itself.

Interestingly, Bacharach gave the song to Carpenter and asked him if he(Carpenter) could do something with it. As a result, Carpenter put his own introduction to it and his own twists. Everything else is history. For most of us, communication focuses on improving output. After all, that is what everyone experiences when you speak; your command of language; your accommodation of social mores and boundaries and how nimbly you respond to nonverbal cues. Much of the processing function happens unconsciously.

On a conscious level, processing includes strategies and rules of engagement that require you to put your brain in gear by thinking about where you want the conversation or leadership to go. This is evidenced by which leadership statements are appropriate in a particular context and so on.

Why are leadership statements so powerful?

They have the potential to become the signature strength to someone else. Powerful leadership statements can be a phrase, a quote, an example or maybe the trip home from a workshop. We don’t always get or give the full game plan. But something clicks with you. It’s like God does in us something extraordinary and we share that with the compelling lead sheet as a vision and others follow. Remember the scripture verse, “Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”

True leaders can make adjustments on the fly because they have a lot in their toolbox. This is why their preaching calendar often expands beyond the common lectionary. By the way, the Leactionary is great for Advent and Lent but not to be treated as an absolute throughout the year. A creative sermon series that addresses current situations may be more relevant.

Each week, on my iphone, I email our teen Sunday school class teacher a lead sheet. I call it a youth study guide which includes the sermon title and scripture, the principle and the practice of the sermon, with three questions; all on one sheet of paper. Much of it contains leadership statements on which the facilitator can enhance and improvise.

In the leadership world, what does it mean to give someone the “lead sheet?” How do you recognize leadership statements when they are communicated?

Here’s a couple of leadership statements that should improve your leadership communication skills.

1. “Here’s an idea, see what you can do with it then get back with me.”
2. “I want you to give this some thought we’ll talk later.”

Notice in these statements how there is a “handing over” to the other person. It is not a collaborative event but accountability is certainly built into the leadership statements. Leaders be careful. Always be ready when others take the lead sheet from you and run with it. That’s what you want. It’s not a bad thing especially if you’re comfortable (or can become comfortable) with their new ownership. Just be prepared for this to happen.

Resist the urge of telling young leaders to find their own stuff or to wait a few years. They need and deserve opportunities to lead. You will always have young and emerging leaders who will come to you and want to learn. You can dismiss it or you can bless it. Bless it. Give young leaders your blessings!

Cultivate relationships where others can safely air their honest thoughts and reactions. Then be ready for the other person to develop the lead sheet just like Richard Carpenter did with the pop hit “Close To You. Finally, always give credit to people who give even the smallest thought or nugget of an idea to you. It is so rewarding to give a lead sheet packed with leadership statements so others find their signature strength.

Take responsibility for improving your leadership communication skills. Prove that the moment is not too big for you. Remember, it’s all in The Lead Sheet.

Barry is the Founder and Present of Ministry Indicators, a consulting group for churches who are ready for renaissance. He also serves as a pastor/consultant/coach for the Missouri Conference of United Missions.

From: web site. December 2008