From Fragmentation to Wholeness

 Structure - Collaborative into Hierarchy

To create order is to create a structure for control. To release control creates a opening for initiative and collaboration. This is the transition point that modern organizations are passing through from hierarchy to the network.

If you know me, you know that meeting people from diverse walks of life is a passion for me. I find people infinitely interesting, their background, their thinking, how they found themselves doing what they do, their hopes and dreams, and their perception of their strengths and potential.

There is a reality that I see in many of them that is equally interesting.  Many of them are unfulfilled in their life and work. It isn't that they don't have a passion for something, or don't know enough about themselves to know what their strengths and gifts are. No, it is that most have never found themselves in either the social or organizational setting where they could flourish as human beings.

As I write this I'm mentally scrolling through the places where I live and work. I'm thinking about the people whom I've met and known over the years. Thinking about common characteristics that distinguish them and united them together.

What are the common characteristics of non-fulfillment and of life fulfillment.

Here are three.

Do you have a purpose, a mission, or a calling? Can you define this as something more than what you do as an activity, and more as something you create and achieve?

Do you have a supportive, encouraging, open and honest network of family and friends? Are there people who understand you, who stand by through thick and thin, who believe in you, your mission and the impact  you want to achieve?

Does your workplace and home life provide a context where your purpose and your relationships can flourish? Are you constrained by the structures that frame your life? Or, does the lack of order within your calling mean that there are opportunities that you fail to achieve?

My observation is that these characteristics are in descending order of occurrence. More people have a sense of purpose, fewer people have a truly healthy social network, and by a large margin, the fewest people work and live in social and organizational contexts where they can flourish.

The Circle of Impact

Circle of Impact- simple
For a decade, I've been using this diagram as a conversation / thinking tool to help leaders and their organizations understand where the gaps are in their business.  Here's a simple description of what I see.

Leadership is a function that every person can perfom to take "personal inititative to create impact." 

I am not defining leadership as a role or an organizational postion. Like many leadership theorists, I see these roles as management, rather than leadership.

Therefore, the Three Dimensions of Leadership that every leader must address are Ideas, Relationships and Social & Organizational Structure. Ideally, every person within an organization takes personal initiative through their ideas and relationships, within social and organizational structures to create impact. As a result, a company becomes a leader-filled organization, rather than one starved for leadership.

The four Connecting Ideas of Purpose, Values, Vision and Impact provide the glue, the ligaments and tendons that create the wholeness of an organization.

Each of the three leadership dimensions must be aligned with one or more of the Connecting Ideas. Here's how.

The social and organizational structures are aligned with the organization's purpose. If these structures aren't, there is conflict and fragmentation.

The relationships within an organization are aligned with the values that create a common identity and character as a community of people.

However, it is not enough, to have values. Many organizations have a strong value system, but lack purpose. A community of people need a vision for how their purpose that makes a difference that matters.  It must challenge them to grow, to remain open, and to inspire leadership initiative all with their community. 

The Connecting Ideas permeate all aspects of an organization. Every person, every unit, office, group, committee, or board needs purpose that guides, values that unite, a vision that inspires, and an understanding of impact that defines the future of their organization.

The Structure Dilemma

Having been working with this perspective for over a decade, I've come to a challenging conclusion.

The problem in most organizations isn't the attitudes and behaviors of people. The reality is that people are products of their environment, or the social and organization structure of your business dictates what attitudes and behaviors fit within that system.

Most organizations work from a hierarchical stance. There are bosses and managers who direct employees work. This industrial model of management worked well when the tasks of work were non-creative, repetitive and mechanical skills based. Today, we live in a world of creativity, information and the skills require are for human interaction, communication and collaboration. The old structure doesn't align well with this new reality. Network

As I wrote in The End and The Beginning, this shift from hierarchy is an epic one. As I said recently, "Imagine Proctor & Gamble without bosses and managers, just leaders."

The emerging structure for organizations is the network. Each person participates by their own initiative. Each person contributes through their own unique offering to the network.

I call this "leading by vacuum," which simply means that people do what they are gifted or able to do, which opens up the environment for people with different talents and skills to contribute.

In an hierarchical structure, the efficient ordering of the parts and their compliance are primary. This structure is highly susceptible to fragmentation, compartmentalization and corruption through concentrations of power.

In the network, personal initiative, collaboration and communication make human relationships central.  This is an emergent reality, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The power resides in the network and those who know how to engage more people to contribute. It is a leadership of facilitation and ingenuity, rather than control.

I first saw this reality in mid-1970's when I heard the Modern Jazz Quartet in concert. Sitting in a large concert hall with these quiet instruments I saw these four musicians communicating through them. Here is MJQ playing one of the signature tunes, Django. Watch for how their unspoken communication and timing work together.


Each person in the band is essential. Each person has their part to play. The impact is a sound which transcends one instrument, and blends the four into something evocative.

The Quest for Wholeness

If you know that your business or organization is fragmented, splintering apart, difficult to hold together, then what you are experiencing is the end of the viability of a traditional hierarchical structure. You feel it before you can truly see it. By feeling it, you know that others do too.

Bringing wholeness to your structure begins with the Connecting Ideas.

Reaffirm your purpose.

Identify the values that build connections between people.

Create a vision that inspires personal initiative.

Define the difference you seek to create so that you and everyone else can be absolutely clear as to what your impact is.

Begin this process in conversation. Use the Circle of Impact Conversation Guides. Hire me to come facilitate the conversation, if necessary. I'd welcome the opportunity to work with you and your leaders.

Creating a network business structure starts with establishing relationships of respect, trust and mutual reciprocity. Out of those healthy relationships, the network emerges to provide a platform for leadership initiative to create impact.

As the network grows, allow it to establish the organizational structural components that it needs. Remain open to change. Stay vigilant in affirming and acting on the Connecting Ideas.

The future is the network. And the future is now.

Creating a Network of Relationships

Here are some additional conversation guides that can help you understand how to create your own network of relationships.

How Social Networks Work
How To Expand Your Social Network
How Information Flows Through a Social Network

Moving to Higher Ground - by Wynton Marsalis - a Leading Questions review

I've been a fan of Wynton Marsalis since the days he played with Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers. Higher Ground - MarsalisHis seven CD set, Live at the Village Vanguard, is one of best jazz albums of the past 25 years. It was with great excitement when I saw that he had published a book on the relation of jazz to life.

Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life is a classic statement of Wynton's philosophy that can be seen all the things he does. It is a book that provides a rationale for why jazz is both an important American art form, but also a way of looking at life that can bring strength and goodness to people, their families and friends, and their communities.

He starts by telling about Danny Barker, a New Orleans musician who led the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band . The band was formed to provide a way to keep kids off the streets. Here's what Wynton says about Barker's influence on him.

There we met an old man whom I presumed to be Mr. Barker. He was a colorful character, full of fire and stories well told. He loved New Orleans music and he loved kids. That day, he taught us the most profound lesson about playing jazz - and the possibility of a life of self-expression and mutual respect - that I've ever encountered.

... The clarinet players squeaked and squawked. Mr. Barker listened. Then he said, "Everything you do, you got to do with personality. Scoop and bend and slide those notes." They tried to do that.

Mr. Barker said, "That's jazz! Now let's hear clarinets and trumpets on the melody. But when y'all play together, you got to talk to one another . ...

So he was hearing something in us way back then. And he was teaching us something, too: You are creative, whoever you are. Respect your own creativity and respect the creativity and creative space of other people.

That's the book in a nutshell,and it is a powerful message in a time where conflict and division are found in every sphere of life.

One of the hallmarks of the jazz art is the ability of musicians to improvise. It is a way to be creative with what the situation brings you. He describes the musicians that came to his house as a child, men who were friends of his family, a noted New Orleans musician and teacher.

It seemed to me that all of these people knew one another or at least had some type of connection. For all their hard, profane talk, there was an unusual type of gentleness in the way they treated one another. Always a hug upon greeting and - from even the most venerated musicians - sometimes a kiss on the cheek. A natural ease with those teetering on the edge of sanity. A way of admonishing but not alienating those who might have drug problems. Always the feeling that things in our country, in our culture, in our souls, in the world, would get better.  And beyond that, the feeling that this mysterious music would someday help people see how things fit together: segregation and integration, men and women, the political process, even the stock market.

That's why these were still confident, optimistic men. Even though they were broke and misunderstood , sometimes difficult of personality, sometimes impaired by a too intense encounter with mind-altering substances and trapped in a culture that was rapidly moving away from professional levels of musicianship, romantic expression, and the arts in general, they still believed in the value of this jazz they played and still understood that their job was inventing music - and making sense of it with one another.

They improvised.

Now, the ability to improvise - to make up things that could get you out of a tight spot - well, everyone needed to know how to do that, even if it was just coming up with the right words at the right time. I thought there must be something to this improvised music. I needed to learn more about it. And hanging around jazz musicians was a great education for a nine- or ten-year-old because they told great stories and they knew how to listen. That was their way, talking and listening, listening and talking.

What I hear in this description of his childhood is a way for people to relate to one another in an open, respectful way. Creativity, improvisation and human community is a process of listening, sharing, adapting and making something happen that elevates life.

I've been a lover of jazz since the early 70's. I found in it a life that was missing in other music. It was the experience of seeing musicians communicating on the bandstand that most impressed me. I was fortunate to see the Modern Jazz Quartet during their last tour. Each transition in their songs seemed to come effortlessly and without words being shared. The music that each of these men played was a conversation shared between them. They knew what the others were saying, and I was in awe of that level of connection.

Wynton helps us understand jazz and what it is like to play it. It isn't a dry, academic text, but rather a story told by one of the top jazz artists of our time. He writes about the language of jazz, which I find fascinating, on the importance of the blues to the music and to life, and he tells stories about some of the jazz greats of the past.

Here's what he says about some of them.

Louis Armstrong

... the deepest human feeling and the highest musical sophistication.

... a celebration of the freedom to be yourself. He always knew and loved himself. He embraced the things he was most proud of, like his artistry ...
Louis Armstrong never tried to be someone else. His playing is free of artifice. It's pure substance. ...

Louis Armstrong's sound has the power to heal. His playing is wisdom and forgiveness. ... That feeling's in all of Louis Armstrong's music, that warmth and familiarity and the feeling that whatever you say, he will understand it - and he will understand it from your point of view.

John Coltrane

'Trane is perseverance. His development demonstrates the unquestionable value of hard work and dogged persistence.

The fourth movement of the quartet's masterpiece, A Love Supreme, is a written prayer ... "He breathes through us so gently and yet so completely, " that to me, sums up what Coltrane was all about. He was a preacher, an exhorter. He wants to convert you through his horn. But for all his fire, he is never frantic, never rushing; he is always relaxed and certain. Something in his sound touches us with its depth and compassion, its sheer beauty - a loftiness. It's irresistible. He is so earnest you want to cry.
People love Coltrane.

'Trane went out, far out into interstellar space. His discoveries were very personal. His music became pure energy. Many of his discoveries got lost in an abstract cosmos of expression and never found their way home. But Coltrane himself is remembered as a master saxophonist, a genius at integrating the music of other cultures, a hyper-harmonically-sophisticated bluesman and an earnest spiritual seeker. He was all those things and more.

Thelonius Monk

... had the sound of the church in his playing, and he had the spiritual inevitability that comes only to somebody who knows the depth of human soul. It made him at once wise and childlike, a rare combination in a full-grown man. Children don't usually sort through things to remove the painful truth. Monk gave you that kind of cut-to-the-bone honesty with the oversight of the genius.

He had another kind of virtuosity: getting notes to bend and creak and moan. His style was neither old-fashioned nor modern.

... he looked at things - from the opposite side.
Somebody would ask him, "What's happening, Monk?"
"Everything is happening all the time, man."

Wynton also writes about Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Holiday and Miles Davis, among others. Frequently, on his radio show, In the Swing Seat, on Sirius/XM radio, he talks about these shapers of the jazz art form. Part of his his greatest is his love and respect for these artists who came before him.

Wynton ends his book with an exploration for That Thing with No Name - human creativity.

The creativity of our fellow citizens is all around us - in their dress, language, lifestyle, in so many combinations of things. You don't have to earn your creativity - you're born with it. All you have to do is tend to it and unleash it. Every human being on earth is given the gift to create, and that creativity manifests itself in trillions of ways.There are no laws or rules. Creativity is unruly. Like a dream - you can't control what comes to you. You only control what portion you choose to tell.

This is the message of jazz to us average folk. We have something within us to share, create, and bring goodness to the world. You don't have to be a superstar performer to do this.

In the simplest and most essential context, creativity and innovation reiterate the importance of soul. They are, separately and together, an expansion of feeling and a supreme expression of our humanity. We have an artistic imperative to understand and reengage creativity and innovation, not merely as tools for economic growth but as tools for democracy and accomplished citizenship. We have a culture imperative to find common ground with even our firercest competitors ... and to play with integrity.

It is this larger perspective, not just the quality of his music, that makes Wynton Marsalis one of the great human beings of our time. He has received a lot of criticism for his outspoken celebration of the tradition of jazz. Without him, our world would be greatly empoverished culturally.  He spends a lot of time helping children and young people learn to find their creative expression through jazz.

Moving to a Higher Ground
is a manifesto about the importance of jazz to our world today. As a long time jazz listener, I very much agree, and celebrate this fine book.  Just to complete this little tribute to him, here's a brief video of Wynton at the Harriet Tubman Charter School playing Buddy Bolden's Blues.

The three dimensions of the leadership of Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis is a fascinating man. He is one of my favorite jazz players, but even more so, one of my favorite human beings.

Wynton is a man who understands the three dimensions of leadership. You can see it in this recent interview with Charlie Rose. They don't talk that much about his new album - From the Plantation to the Penitentiary

Instead they talk Ideas - Wynton speaks as a moral philosopher describing the complex moral universe of an adult culture that takes advantage of young people through a music culture that is artificial and verging on the pornographic.

They talk about systems, organizational structure and institutions.  Wynton speaks about New Orleans and the failure of large institutions to be effective in the relief after Katrina.  He recognizes that individuals and smaller organizations have faithfully come to the Gulf to care for the people and their recovery.

They talk about relationships from the standpoint of Wynton understanding that younger jazz musicians are not to try to emulate him, but rather to be themselves, making their own contribution to the culture of jazz.  He talks about the play of these younger players.

Wynton gets a lot of grief because he is outspoken about certain things.  People think he is arrogant. He may be, but what I find here is a man who understands his place in the history of the world he lives in.  He celebrates the traditions of jazz, and sets a high standard for what greatness means.  His audience is not the fan in the music hall, but the great ones who came before him.

Having listened to jazz for almost forty years, I find Wynton Marsalis one of the few who are equal to the giants of yesterday. I'm speaking of Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane.  I think this is because he understands better than anyone else his indebtedness to the people that came before him who made jazz what we know it today.  He honors them in his playing.  He honors them in his philosophy that has guided his service to the culture of jazz.

It is for this that I find the leadership Wynton Marsalis fulfilling the three dimensions of leadership, and therefore becoming a leader of impact in the world of culture and society. 

What specifically has he done to be an Impact Leader?

1. Ideas: More than any contemporary jazz musician he has focused attention on the idea and history of jazz.  He does it in workshops, in interviews and in his concerts. He does it on his Saturday morning XM jazz radio show - In the Swing Seat.  He is an man of ideas whose ideas are substantial.  This is what Charlie Rose, a great lover and support of jazz, doesn't understand. His questions were simplistic as if the whole question of the morality of the entertainment culture bored him.  Rose only wants to address it from the simplistic dualism of one person against another.  Wynton is a person of depth and it shows in his answers that Charlie Rose hardly touches.  It also shows in the perspective he presented to Congress on Arts Advocacy day. Read the transcript of his presentation.

2. Relationships: Following in the footsteps of one of his mentors, Art Blakey, Wynton has embraced young musicians who learn from him, and go on to produce some of the finest music anywhere.  You can tell by the way his bands play together that they are a team, a family, a unit, not simply the backup group to a star.  If you've never listened to Wynton Marsalis music, I suggest that you purchase the seven CD set called Live at the Vanguard. It is one of the best bargains in music you'll find.  Wynton's groups remind me of The Modern Jazz Quartet whom I saw when I was in college. Four players; a piano, a bass, drums and a vibraphone; and a level of communication between them that was astounding.  Four guys playing as one.  This is what happens with Wynton's bands.

3. Organizational Structure:
While many of Wynton's records will remain in print long after he has finished playing, it will be his work as the leader of Jazz at Lincoln Center that will ultimately be his legacy.  People may be remembered for a great act of service or courage, but they are the exception. Lasting legacy typically must have an institutional basis if that legacy is to be sustained into the future.  What Wynton has done to lead the effort to build a center for jazz in New York City at Lincoln Center is to establish an institution that will carry on his ideas for teaching young people about jazz, and its culture and history.  From this place will rise young players who will understand their place in jazz's history, and will be able to build upon that foundation to continue to enliven the jazz that is created. 

Wynton Marsalis, beyond having a successful music career, has mastered the three dimensions of leadership that are required to have an impact beyond the sound of his horn.  And for all who love jazz, we should be eternally grateful.

Phil Woods - A Life in E-flat

I love jazz and of all the jazz greats, Phil Woods is my favorite. He is the greatest alto sax player since Charlie Parker.  Bird changed the world. Phil carried on the tradition. Along with Thelonious Monk, Phil is my favorite musician.
A documentary on Phil Woods - A Life in E-flat - has been released.  It is great because not only does it show us the man Phil Woods, but provides an upclose view of a recording session where you can hear the Phil that I've listened to for thirty years.

I've only had one opportunity to hear Phil live. It was in the fall of 1978 at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.  Now imagine this, the Phil Woods Quintet was double billed with the Dizzy Gillespie band.  And they played together.  It was a throw back to the 1950s when a young Phil was a member of Dizzy's big band.

In the documentary, Phil talks about jazz greats and how they helped him a long. The following two transcriptions are mine taken directly from the DVD.

Music and the influence of Benny Carter

Music is not about arriving.  It’s about the journey. Which is what life should be. The more I play, the more I realize I don’t know s***.  I mean that. Total humble perspective. I’m a great musician, but there is so much more work to be done. It’s just getting good, and I’m 72. I expect to play ‘til I’m 95. Like Benny Carter.  Music keeps you young if you do it right.  Don’t cheat on that mistress, man. Don’t sell out that lady. She’ll kick you right in the ass.

If you are a young musician, it’s easy. Any damn fool can play when you are 20, 30, 40, 50. Benny Carter never made any headlines. He would just till the fields forever. Benny was a tinkerer – like I am - always working on his music. He never made any headlines with drug use. Never went to jail.  Never beat up a woman. Never did… He was just a brilliant, well-rounded, cultured human being, who was my hero.

 An encounter with Charlie Parker

… five shows of Harlem Nocturne … I’m not happy.  I’m not happy with my mouthpiece, the reed; I don’t like the horn; I don’t even like the strap.  I got to get some new equipment. I’m getting stale …

There was Charlie Parker (at a club across the street) … he was playing on Larry Rivers’ baritone sax. I could tell that Bird was having a little trouble; the horn was scuffling. He was cool. He was just playing.  I could tell that he was having trouble. So I said, “Mr. Parker … Perhaps you’d like to use my alto?” “Hey that would be good son.” I said ok ... he plays; I’m listening, and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with my saxophone. Mouthpiece sounds good; reed sounds good; horn sounds good; even the strap sounds good.

Then he says, “now you play.” <pause> When I meet young players, they say “I can’t talk to you; I can’t play, I’m too awestruck, too shy.”  I say, “Hey, I’m just a human being. But let me tell you this story, I had to play for God one night. Don’t tell me about awe. Get over it kid. So, I did, I played for God. I played “Long ago and Far away” through a couple choruses. Charlie Parker said to me, “Sounds really good son.” Ah, be still my heart, be still my heart … I went back and play the s*** out of Harlem Nocturne and Nighttrain. I stopped looking for the magic mouthpiece, the magic reed, the magic strap, the magic horn. You know what I started to do? I started to practice!!!

That's just perfect. It is why Phil Woods is great. He has never lost his respect for his mentors. He's a great musician, but he knows that he serves a higher goal than his own career.  He remembers who cared for him when he needed it, and he does the same for others. Its a good lesson for all of us.

You can buy any Phil Woods album and find something to enjoy. And I hope you will.  He's the best. Check out his website - .

UPDATE: See Phil Woods play