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Improvisation versus protocol: navigating the benefits and pitfalls of leadership jazz in healthcare settings
  1. Maximilian Kalyuzhnov1,
  2. Olena Khlystova2,
  3. Benjamin Laker2
  1. 1St Joseph’s College, Reading, UK
  2. 2Henley Business School, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Benjamin Laker, Henley Business School, University of Reading, Reading, UK; benjamin.laker{at}

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In the intricate and ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, leadership is crucial in steering organisations through the myriad of challenges the sector presents. Traditional leadership models, characterised by their rigidity, often prove inadequate in the face of the healthcare sector’s inherent unpredictability.1 This unpredictability necessitates a departure from conventional leadership strategies, underscoring the importance of adopting a more versatile and dynamic approach to leadership. Enter the concept of leadership jazz, an approach inspired by jazz music’s foundational principles, which offers a novel paradigm for leadership and decision-making within healthcare.2

This paradigm champions adaptability and responsiveness, advocating for a leadership style that is as fluid and improvisational as jazz itself. Leadership jazz is not merely about being flexible; it embodies a holistic approach to decision-making, one that harmonises with the complexities and nuances of healthcare management. This approach ensures decisions are made in a manner that is both timely and reflective of the sector’s dynamic nature.3

In this context, the profound impact of music on the brain offers further insight. Neuroscientific studies reveal that engaging with music, especially in the context of improvisation as seen in jazz, activates multiple brain areas. This includes those responsible for emotional processing, motor functions and creative thinking. The brain’s remarkable ability to synchronise its activity with music, adapting to rhythm and melody, mirrors the adaptive qualities essential in leadership. Just as a jazz musician’s brain seamlessly integrates sensory information and past experiences to create spontaneous musical expressions, effective leaders in healthcare must similarly process multifaceted information and adapt to dynamic scenarios. This neural adaptability, fostered through musical engagement, serves as a metaphor for the cognitive flexibility and creative problem-solving skills critical in healthcare leadership. Thus, music not only enriches our cultural and emotional lives but also exemplifies the cognitive agility required in complex …

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  • X @DrBenLaker

  • Contributors MK, OK and BL contributed equally to this work. All authors were involved in the conception and design of the commentary. MK led the drafting of the manuscript with significant contributions from OK and BL in the development of the core ideas and the integration of neuroscientific insights. All authors critically revised the manuscript for important intellectual content, contributed to the discussion on the implications of leadership jazz for healthcare management and approved the final version to be published. They also share responsibility for the accuracy and integrity of the work presented.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests MK, OK, and BL declare that they have no competing interests related to this manuscript. Their main goal is to provide impartial and comprehensive information on the topic, without any financial or non-financial conflicts that might impact the interpretation or presentation of the research findings. The authors have no affiliations or financial associations with any organisations or entities that have a direct or indirect interest in the subject matter discussed. Their sole commitment is to deliver accurate and pertinent information for the benefit of the readers and the wider healthcare community.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.