What Carlos Santana Can Teach Us About Servant Leadership and Collaboration

Collaboration is the art of working together to create something.  Leaders help the process when they view themselves as servant leaders.  They hinder the process when they see themselves as the ones to be served.

Carlos Santana, in the Forbes interview “Carlos Santana on Creativity in Business and Art” written by Kenneth Hein, reveals some great insights on how true collaboration is the result of self-less contribution.  Look at what Carlos said:

“Collaboration, partnership, friendship and marriage all take trust and willingness to allow willingness. When I collaborate on a song or on stage, I am here to complement, not compete.

A true collaboration only works when you complement what the other person is saying and inspire one another to go further.”

We’ve all known leaders who go through the motions of collaboration but push their own agendas.  In that case, people are less engaged and the best of their talents never make it to the table.

When a leader approaches the creation of ideas with an attitude of helping others develop their best contribution - the results will be inspiring and rewarding for everyone involved. The best way to advance remarkable performance in your organization is to use your talents to enhance your employees potential.

ASK YOURSELF - “Am I here to complement or to compete?”  

How would your employees view your interaction with them? 

Inspire your people to go further.  Complement them today!

To help you create this kind of collaborative environment for your team, I wrote the ebook - “The Checklist for Building A High Impact Team”.  Click here for an free excerpt.

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And here is a great interview with Santana that might spark some ideas for your creative process:


How to Solve the Real Problem to Problem-Solving

“Where am I going to find the time to get everything done?”

“It is just not possible to get any time to myself.  I’m in endless meetings or being constantly interrupted.”

“Management wants me to ‘think outside of the box’ and find some creative solution to this problem.  Right!  My schedule is too busy and brainstorming is nothing but a source of frustration.  People come up with ideas that I don’t have the budget for or the time to implement; and then they get mad because I don’t follow through on their ideas.”

This is starting to sound too familiar, isn’t it?  Leaders have a tremendous amount of responsibilities in these challenging economic times and the demand to be creative is a constant expectation in the equation.  


The time factor is not the only problem though.  There is a more pervasive distraction that is hampering our ability to use our imagination and unleash the creative potential of our thoughts.  It is the product of our fabulous information age and advances in technology.  The real problem is noise.

Yes, “Noise”.

Stop right now and observe what’s going on around you.  What noise can you identify?

Most of us could list the noise we hear - the buzz of lights, computers, people talking, etc.  And yet, the noise that drowns out our ability to think creatively is more than that - it includes:

  • the access to the internet,
  • the stack of papers on the desk,
  • emails,
  • cell phones,
  • social media (Facebook, Twitter, LInkedIn, Pinterest...)
  • the caption feed running along the bottom of the screen while you watch the news,
  • text messages,
  • that to-do list.

All of these, and so much more, are constantly pulling for the attention of our thoughts and crowding out the power of our imagination.

We need to find ways to UNPLUG from the noise.  Do you remember all the "cool ideas" you thought of when you were a child?  Where did you have those ideas?  People tell me those ideas came when they climbed up in a tree, were on a swing at the park, or reading at the library.  No crowds, no noise, just quietly thinking.

Think about this - great ideas often occur to us in the shower!  Right?  I'm sure that's happened to you.  And it's because there are fewer distractions.  

Consider this great advice from Carlos Santana from a recent interview published by Forbes

“Your imagination is like a muscle. If you take the time to just sit down and just close your eyes and imagine things, it’s like a muscle you develop. That’s why it’s good to turn off all the computers, TV and noise and just sit with yourself for a while. You can get beyond the noise and you get to hear this voice. This voice sounds very different than all the other accusing voices or guilt voices and fear. Once you start hearing this voice, it is very soothing, gentle and is very non-accusing. And then you can expand upon the ideas and make them a reality.”

I really appreciate what he says about the “voice...soothing, gentle...non-accusing.”

If you want to solve the real problem to problem-solving ELIMINATE THE DISTRACTIONS. You can recapture your child-like ability to imagine, to dream and to create.  Here are some quick actions to overcome the distrations:

1) UNPLUG for a while each day and TAKE A WALK.

2) LEAVE the technology on your desk.

3) CARRY A NOTEPAD and a pen.  Yes, the old fashioned tool of paper and pen.

4) LISTEN TO and WRITE down the ideas that you hear in your thoughts.  The physical act of expressing those thoughts in your mind and watching them develop into visible elements on paper is enlightening.

5) TAKE A WALK and TALK.  Have a creative person join you.  Talk about ideas, not about events or other people.  Steve Jobs did this all the time.

Develop that muscle.  The next time you go into a problem solving meeting, you’ll be better prepared to lead the solutions.

- Steven Iwersen

U2 - Leadership Lessons from a Rock Band

There is nothing like a good rock concert to put the basics of leadership into perspective!   

U2, the world renowned rock band, performed in front of thousands of college students at New York's Fordham University and millions of viewers on Good Morning America on Friday morning, March 6, 2009.  Their performance was classic.  Their influence was profound.  And if you watched closely enough you may have realized that it took only a few moments and some very intentional actions to turn a screaming crowd of spectators into a quiet, focused mass of participants!

Bono, U2 lead singer, modeled for us seven basic leadership methods that can make a dramatic difference in how people participate or follow our lead.  He stepped to center stage, spoke just a few words as the music began and deliberately demonstrated what he expected from the audience.  The result was amazing. 

  • He spoke:  "I hope you like our new direction."
  • He lifted his hand high above his head and struck a confident pose.
  • He began to move his hand from right to left, slowly and in time with the music.
  • He told the crowd to follow his actions.
  • When everyone was moving in unison, he changed his open hand into the sign of peace.
  • Bono told the crowd to do the same.

They did!

And when the crowd was totally involved, the band delivered what everyone was expecting - a new song by Rock n Roll Superstars!  But they got more than what they expected; they were led into an experience that moved them from being simply individuals gathered in the quad at Fordham University into a community of like minded people hoping for the world to be a better place.

How did U2 get everyone together -- in rhythm with each other?  The seven basics of good leadership:

  1. Clearly state your direction and intentions.
  2. Confidently show others what you are expecting.
  3. Then, invite them to join you.
  4. Give them time to get in sync with the plan.
  5. Once they have the idea, show them the next part.
  6. Tell them how to do it with you.
  7. Deliver on what you promised!

If you are in a leadership role and trying to move a group of people from a chaotic collection of individuals into a cohesive team of people who might actually be able to make a significant difference in your workplace, community or the world, put these seven basic skills into practice!  Take center stage, be a person of fewer words, model what you expect, give them time to come together and your influence will be "rock-star" profound as you lead them to amazing results.

Check out the video at YouTube

Looking forward to your thoughts and comments.  -  Steven Iwersen