What We Can Learn From Marching Band Leaders


As I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year, I couldn’t help but notice the marching band leaders. All primed in their colorful uniforms and looking very serious as they led their musicians forward, these leaders screamed- “Here we come!” Of course the entire parade was an extraordinary spectacle, but each marching band seemed to have its own style and its own unique leader. Each leader seemed to be directing their band in a particular way, keeping their baton pointed towards a dream or a goal. In turn, the members of the bands kept their eyes focused ahead looking for the direction of the baton and the leader. It was as if they were following an arrow pointing straight ahead. The leader and arrow kept the band members marching in perfect step and with gusto, knowing they were there with a purpose and an objective.

How do leaders inspire others to support a dream? Here are some ways that may help:


When people embrace and follow a particular direction or goal, they have a clear understanding of the objectives. In sharing their dream, leaders might want to answer these questions:

  • Why are we pursuing this path?
  • What forces, positive and negative, impacted this decision?
  • How are we going to carry out the dream? Make sure to list all the critical steps involved. A marching band leader makes sure all the band members know the routine and the musical choices.
  • When will we know we have reached our milestones and deadlines?
  • Who will be involved in which particular piece of the dream? Essential to the success of any goal is knowing who will be responsible for the different tasks. Each instrument contributes a different, but equally important sound to the entire marching band’s presentation.


Before a band leader puts together any performance, they ask the band members what they feel about the selection of music. Similarly, a leader might want to create a dialogue about the proposed dream or goal. They may ask:

  • Are there any additional ideas to be included?
  • How does the vision fit into your daily workplace?
  • Do you perceive any obstacles to attaining our goals?
  • Does the direction make sense to you? If not, which roads should we be crossing instead?

Make sure to tell the team members how much you value their suggestions and ideas.


Leaders know from years of experience that oftentimes a dream or goal may need to be tweaked. If we are able to remain agile and flexible, we will be more successful in making a quick change. Band leaders deal with unpredictable conditions all the time.

            Inclement weather

            Sick band members

            Schedule changes

            Broken instruments



Be resilient and model the type of behaviors and attitudes you aspire to. When leaders become cheerleaders, they can inspire everyone to march forward in unison. They give credit to all the ideas and suggestions offered by including them in some way in the final performance or goal.

They say thank you and comment on a job well done.

They create magnificent music that represents their team’s culture and character.


How do you point your dreams true north and make sure the entire band is marching with you?


photo credit

6 thoughts on “What We Can Learn From Marching Band Leaders

  1. Loved this post, Terri. While leaders have many responsibilities, I think keeping morale high is right at the top. That means being resilient and modeling good behavior.

    It doesn’t take a lot of time to say Thank You and Job Well Done. But it means a lot to the folks to are hearing it.

    Have a great day!

  2. Terri – What a fun post! I can picture each band leader, with their own attitude and style, and the band behind them a reflection of their energy and vision.

    Ask for input about the dream… love that. So often, leaders remember to communicate the vision and even adapt when things happen but I hope more will take your advice on asking others to build the dream with them. More than lip service and a cheer of “I asked!” really listening and co-creating can make the difference between joyfully dancing together and just marching along.

  3. I just love Terri how you have taken a real event in your life and found the “good nuggets”and applied it to work, life and leadership. It was vivid, powerful and brilliant.

    You asked how do I point to my dreams and follow my true north and make sure my entire band is marching with me?

    I listen to my heart.
    I speak from my heart.
    I feel from my heart.

    Simple but all true!

    Love to you and your brilliant mind and heart.

  4. Keeping the band energized and maintaining high morale is critical to the success of a high performing team.

    You are right on point, LaRae, when you bring up the need for leaders to remain resilient in body, mind and spirit! When a leader is in a strong place, so will the team be.

    Thanks for your great additions and enjoy Hawaii!

  5. It is so impactful for the inclusion of others’s ideas and suggestions to make the dream real for the entire team, Alli!

    And that parade is so colorful and exciting, no matter the age of the person. I have loved watching it since I was a kid and I still get butterflies when those huge balloons fly down.

    Thanks for contributing your additions!

  6. After watching the parade and the band leaders I realized how important they are to the success of each band’s performance. I also realized that without having the confidence of the band members, the leaders wouldn’t play such an important role.

    I love Lolly how you follow your true north- listening to your heart, speaking from your heart and feeling from your heart!

    Our hearts are truly our most meaningful guides.

    I appreciate all your insightful wisdom.


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