Once a year, Santa Barbara rolls out about 15 old pianos and places them on street corners on State Street, the main street in downtown, and invites everyone to play. It is an event I look forward to as all styles of music fill the air for a week. The pianos are painted festive colors and invite any and all to sit and play. I savor the opportunity to play the pianos at different times of day. There is something very indulgent about playing at 7am as part of my morning walk as the world wakes up and I am the only one on the street with my music.
One of the things I love most about “Pianos on State Street” is the range of abilities. While I must admit I get a little tired of Heart and Soul, Chop Sticks, and the one piece people play with their knuckles, for the most part it’s fascinating to see what music people play. It’s amazing how in the moment, people will sit down and just play. I rarely play for anyone but on State Street, I lose my inhibitions and sit down and play for the world.
I become the great pianist I’ve longed to be. For one week, everyone is a pianist!
As I listened to the range of piano talents, I am reminded of the reaction I get when I ask some people…”What kind of leader are you?” Some people quickly respond… “I’m not a leader”. I think everyone has a little leader in them, it’s just a matter of where and how it shows up. Some people are leaders at home, others at work, others in their communities. Usually, through a series of questions I can help people to see that no matter how small their influence, they do have leadership qualities.
I recently had a discussion with a young man who was definitely not convinced he was a leader of any type. I asked, “What do you like to do? …Music?” response, no. Sports? …response, no. Travel? …response, no. Service…response, no. We continued…”How do you spend your time?” He replied…”I like to go out with my friends.” I asked…”Where do you decide where you are going?”. He perked up. “Oh well, my friends just sit around and talk about where to go but never get going. I can get us all going, identifying a place, and then heading out for a good time. If I did not step in, we’d just sit around all night.” All of the sudden the light bulb went on for both of us, he’s really good at getting people to come to an agreement and start moving. What organization wouldn’t like a new leader that knows how to get people excited and energized to do something and then actually gets them going! No doubt there is some room for refining here, but all of the sudden he saw himself as a potential leader.
Just like the pianists on State Street that free themselves to play music, he had allowed himself to see his potential as a leader. I look forward to seeing how he translates these skills in the future.
In the meantime, play some music or if you don’t know what to do this evening or who to go with, well I’ve got a great emerging leader in Santa Barbara that will lead the way!
What kind of leader are you? Let me know.