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“Locking In” with the Drum: Leadership Insights from Playing Bass Guitar

This week in my bass guitar lessons, I've been focused on locking in with the drum.

From my lesson book, “The School of Rock Method™ Bass Book 1,” by Dave Overthrow:

“It is important to lock in with the bass drum, especially in the rock music genre.

When you lock in, you are playing at exactly the same time the drummer hits the bass drum.

This is the main responsibility of the bassist.”

The bass drum is the largest drum you see when you look at the drum kit, sometimes called the kick drum. As I've written before here, the bass guitar and the drums form the rhythm section of a rock band. Without the rhythm section, the music lacks a “floor” for the rest of the band to do their thing.

So the bassist and the drummer are essentially leading the music, each in their own way. We “go first.” And at its essence, leadership isn’t really about having people follow us (which of course our egos always love). It’s about us leading the way, taking the first step.

It’s what I love about playing the bass. The drummer and I are setting the foundation for what’s going to happen, in that Stones song or that tune by Sheryl Crow.

Going first, to build on this definition of leadership, can be scary sometimes. It means trying something new, that might or might not go so well. Or it might go really, really well and address something important.

Think about it -- what would our work as Green professionals be -- and what would our world be like -- without people who take risks, because it matters?

Here, I especially want to call forth many of the women who are leading in our field by taking risks, doing something no one else is doing. Several are highlighted in the Forbes article, “46 Sustainability Leaders (Who Are Also Women),” by Solitaire Townsend.

Women including:

Christiana Figueres, former executive director of the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change. Her work led to the Paris accord of 2015 and she’s also creating climate urgency today through her work as founder of Mission 2020.

Dame Ellen MacArthur – Founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, who also is a retired sailor. Did you know she’s known for breaking the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of our globe? Dame Ellen saw the need for a focused initiative that zeroes in on the circular economy, and went on to found the noted Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

And here’s a third woman leader inspired by my work with Laura Mandala of Mandala Research and Women in Travel and Tourism International:

Kelley Louise, the founder of the Impact Travel Alliance, which works to “educate travelers on how to spend their money mindfully so that their experiences empower locals and protect our environment.”

These women, and thousands of others -- men and women alike -- have led the way towards a greener, more sustainable future. They saw a different drummer they could “lock in” with than everyone else, one that was anchored to who they are and what really matters to them.

And don’t be fooled -- getting to a level of success like these individuals requires a lot of trial and error. Someone going first.

It’s why my band has rehearsals. To try things out. Work out the kinks. Decide what falls flat and what looks like it might work.

  • What are you going to do to “go first,” as a leader in our field?

  • What gaps do you see and how could you possibly make a contribution?

  • How are you “locking in” with a different drummer?

And if you lead in an organization, how are you setting up “rehearsal time” so people can do this important “locking in” work?

Can we help with moving you -- or your team members -- forward on the path to Green leadership success? Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, Ph.D., at or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Executive/Leadership Coaching services or our Leadership Development workshops are right for you. We work with individual Green Executives and with Green Organizations. All services are customized to your needs.

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