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6 Ways to Lead Without Being The Leader

Being the leader of a group is very, very hard. As a sideman with half a dozen bands around the Midwest, I get to see on a daily basis the challenges and complexities of being a leader every week.

As I have interacted with different leaders over the years, I've come to the conclusion that one leader trying to lead in a group simply isn't enough. There's no way that one leader can cover bookings, practices, song selections, personnel, and then leading from onstage. He'll go crazy, burn out, or simply drop the ball repeatedly. Unfortunately, I know from first-hand experience. In the past, I've been a leader that led in this way.

So what do you do when you see your leader dropping the ball because he's stretched too thin? Here's 6 ways help:

1. Ask what he/she needs

Most good leaders need simple tasks taken care of that anyone could do. When I've asked this question in the past, leaders have asked me to help them hand out set lists, roll cables, set up music stands, and other menial tasks. By taking some of the little things off the band leader's plate, he/she's will be freed up to do the important work that only he/she can do, like book more gigs.

2. Take over a job

Are you good at setting up chairs or running a light show? Permanently take it over, so the leader doesn't have to worry about getting it done each show. Knowing that there is one less thing to do at a show can make a leader relax.

3. Think Ahead

Think before you go to a show what might be needed for the event, not just for you, but for the rest of the group. For instance, I often bring extra batteries if I know that in the past the guitarist has had issues with forgetting to bring extra himself. Solve a potential crisis before it even becomes one. Your band leader will love you for it.

4. Do Unto Others. . .

Go over the top with the golden rule at every gig. If you were the lead singer onstage, how would you like me to set up? Does everyone have enough water to make if through the set? Simple acts of kindness go a long way toward making everyone having a good time at the show.

5. Don't bad mouth

While the leader may make some dumb decisions, you probably would do far worse in his/her place. One of the worst cancers that can spread through a group is gossiping about the negative aspects of a leader. Don't let it happen- don't listen to it, don't participate in it, and definitely don't instigate it. If you have an issue with the leader, talk to the him/her privately. You'd hate it if he/she started talking to all the other band members about how you screwed up that solo last week.

6. Don't Be Needy

If there is any way possible, don't ask much of your leader at gigs and other high pressure events. There are so many details to work out even for a simple show, that it's very easy to overwhelm a leader.
Simple ways avoid being needy at events are getting directions and call times finalized in advance, working out the setlist beforehand, and having a basic stage plot and parking instructions settled before you get to the venue.


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