4 Ways That Being a Musician Made Me a Better Agency Leader

Striking the right chord, in art and business

I sold my soul to rock 'n' roll when I was 4 years old and have been intoxicated by music ever since.

My earliest memories are of my father's old Seeburg jukebox and how mesmerized I was by the sounds of the Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fantastic Shakers and even Barry Manilow that poured forth from that beautiful contraption's illuminated glow. My parents, recognizing my attraction to all styles of music, signed me up for piano lessons and I was hooked for life. I would be a musician from that point forward.

Throughout my musical journey, I have been lucky to have been a first chair bassist in an orchestra, a singer and guitarist for too many bands to mention, a published songwriter, a member of an award-winning collegiate a cappella group and a dude who got to play a drum solo at Carnegie Hall.

It was a great musical career. But my primary profession is serving as managing partner of a digital agency. Business, marketing and analytics were disciplines I had to learn. Music is what prepared me to lead our organization. 

My life in music shaped the following four core leadership principles that guide me each day:

Vision has no limitations.

I can think of no better musical representation of this idea than the Beatles' masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The band had a vision for reinventing themselves as artists, and they pushed boundaries, challenged conventional wisdom and created numerous recording studio innovations that resulted in one of pop music's greatest works. True leaders have a vision and won't be limited by boundaries in terms of executing against it.

Discipline drives improvement.

I had a music instructor who once told me, "Discipline is doing what you know you've got to do when you don't want to do it." While the context of that quote related to practicing an instrument, the same principle applies to leadership. Constant self-improvement, self-evaluation and even decision making often require immense discipline, and it is critical for a leader to do what it takes to keep growing and moving forward.

Always be creating.

A musician who doesn't create isn't a musician. The same thing applies to business leaders. It is our job to create better solutions for clients, better growth opportunities for team members and a better world around us. Like a great composer, a leader is always thinking about what to create next.

The foundation must be strong.

Any rock musician will tell you that if the rhythm section isn't solid, the band will suck. Why? The drums and the bass serve as the foundation for the music, and if the backbone isn't strong, the rest of the band will struggle. Getting your foundation in place and not compromising anything is step one to achieving long-term success.

Whether it is music or business, we never stop "practicing" and our goal is to always get better as we work toward creating that next masterpiece. Music helped create my foundation and plays an integral role in how I live and lead each day.

I still don't even mind the occasional Barry Manilow tune. 

K.B. Reidenbach
K.B. Reidenbach is managing partner at digital agency Levelwing.