Finding parallels between business leadership, music

“I wanna rock and roll all night …” My guess is that 99 percent of you reading this article just whispered the phrase “… and party every day!” Is that because you’re all wild partiers? Or could it be the mere fact that you’ve heard the chorus to that KISS song so many times that it just automatically evokes that response?

The power of repetition, simplicity and enthusiasm has helped that song withstand the test of time, but those are also characteristics of effective leadership communication.

I’ve always loved this quote by Warren Bennis: “The role of an effective leader is to take the complex and make it simple.”

Thus began my fascination with the parallels between two passions of mine, music and business. Bennis could have just as easily been talking about the complexities of music — the composition, arrangement and instrumentation all coming together to produce a pleasing and simple sound.

For me, the most obvious parallels between business leadership and music can be found in communication, collaboration and strategy. It’s what I call my “rhythm of business” philosophy.


One of the biggest challenges companies have is in how they communicate throughout the organization. What is your message? How simple and memorable is it? How often do you communicate that message to your audience? How engaging is it?

Take a page out of songwriting. The chorus of a song, the hook, is the main thing your audience walks away singing. For a company, that’s likely your mission statement. But how often are you talking about your mission? And is what you’re communicating lost in long business jargon, or is it concise and compelling?

A recent study by the University of Southern California found that a popular song’s likelihood of reaching No. 1 on the charts increases by 14.5 percent every time the chorus is repeated. The same can be said about your company’s message.

There’s an old adage that says, “The moment you are starting to tire of your own message, your audience is just beginning to hear it.”


There’s more to business leadership than just communicating a message. Everyone on your team has a role, and plays an equal part in your organizational output. Together, you achieve optimal results.

Have you ever heard a song replayed that just isolated the vocals? It’s usually not very easy on the ears, but together with full instrumentation, something beautiful is created. (To test my theory look up Linda McCartney’s isolated microphone rendition of “Let It Be” with the band Wings on YouTube. Painful.)


Finally, songwriting takes some structure and planning — verse, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, etc.

Business planning tools like setting goals and objectives, outlining strategies and the tactics to get you there are the constructs that can create long-term success. In the fast-paced business world, it’s surprising how many organizations skip the thoughtful-planning process.



Long-term success should always be the goal — and can be the difference between being the Rolling Stones or a one-hit wonder.


Tom Krouse is the president and CEO of Donatos Pizza. With over three decades of restaurant industry experience, countless civic contributions and an award-winning career in marketing and management, Tom was named C-Suite Executive of the Year in 2014 by Columbus Business First. He was the first Columbus executive to receive the honor. He is also a 2014 Smart 50 winner.