I interviewed Sheila E recently on her world tour at The Brooklyn Bowl in London. Sheila Escovedo is a world-class drummer, percussionist whose credits read like chapters in a music history book: Pete Escovedo, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Ringo Star, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan and George Duke.

Sheila was Prince’s musical director, one of the toughest calls in the music industry for anyone. Amongst the many things we talked about I was interested in Sheila’s ability to lead teams of musical giants in an industry dominated by men. Check the interview out below. 

A Love Bizarre – Our film interview with Sheila E from ME1TV

Leadership lessons from Sheila Escovedo

True professionalism : True professionals in music are great at what they do, but they are also punctual and organised. Sheila learned this point from her father Pete. You may be the greatest technician in the world as a business leader, but if you are late for a meeting, your technical skills count for nothing. If one person is 10 minutes late at a meeting with six others present, a whole hour has been wasted.

Time and Timing : The musicians at the back of the stage are vital to the success of the musicians at the front of the stage. A great rhythm section makes the difference to peak performance. Time and Timing are essential and this is as true in business and life as it is in music.

As a Musical Director, Sheila emphasises the importance of treating everyone in the band with respect if you are to get the best out of the whole team. This of course includes the support team in a musical performance. I watched in awe as Sheila patiently put the band through it’s paces, talking to sound engineers to make sure the whole team were involved in the success of the enterprise. This rare glimpse into the secret life of a leader was a true masterclass meticulous preparation in itself.

Sheila E – 1st lady of Musical Direction

Creativity and incubation : Sheila talked of the value of incubation in turning embryonic ideas into polished jewels. It’s a principle identified by Wallas in 1926, but forgotten by all but true creativity professionals.

Learning from family members : Sheila pointed out how she had learned intuitively from her father, just by listening intently and then mirroring the patterns, he played without ever having a formal music lesson. It’s a point I resonated strongly with, when I won a prize from Sir Richard Branson for my work on how leadership can often come from family members – here’s the post on what I learned from my father : Dear Dad.

Sheila E’s new book is called The Beat of my own DrumSheila’s work in schools brings the joy of music to underprivileged children and her community project Elevate Oakland

Do check out the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business and Music, featuring another great female leader Rowena Morgan who is transforming the music business.

Come to our book launch event on Music and HR on Tuesday June 9th.


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