Maybe you’ve made a playlist for vacation, or to get over a breakup, or to pump yourself up before an event, or as a backdrop for a romantic dinner. If so, you’ve already started to discover what CEO coach Susan Drumm writes about in The Leader’s Playlist.
The book, published in October 2022, is based on brain science research. In it, Drumm describes the ways early life experiences shape the pathways in our brains for the rest of our lives. She then breaks down how we can alter those pathways to specifically improve our leadership capabilities.
With degrees from Harvard Law School and The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, plus more than 20 years of executive consulting and coaching experience, Drumm brings a unique perspective to the intersection of leadership and music. As the CEO, Chief Empowerment Officer, and founder of Meritage Leadership, a leadership coaching and consulting firm, she teaches neurology-based techniques to her 1:1 clients.
She inspires her clients and readers with the fact that they can break old habits that are holding them back from being the best leaders they can be. Here’s what her recent book teaches executives about using the power of music to make them better.
Drumm’s take on creating change in leaders is that you can only change yourself. You cannot change the people who work for you. And to change yourself, you need to go deep…really deep.
She dives into neuroscience to explain “old playlists”—i.e. internal mindsets or mantras we repeat to ourselves over and over. She uses this concept to describe neuron pathways in our minds that are stuck in loops. These loops were first formed as early as childhood.
Those mantras have deep implications for leadership.
For example, a leader might hold a secret fear, “I’m not enough. I’m not enough. I’m not enough.” That mantra, repeated in the subconscious of their mind day after day, might cause them to make decisions from a place of insecurity. Their employees might then have trouble trusting them.
Another leader might think deep down, “No one actually cares about me, so I have to do it all myself.” This belief, or old playlist, causes them to subconsciously push employees away and fail to delegate. This leads to poor employee retention and team bonds.
Yet another leader might say, “Accomplishment earns love.” And as that leader pushes themselves and their team, the team might teeter on the edge of overwhelm and burnout.
Drumm attributes these negative mantras to childhood wounds or ways that our formative experiences affect our personality and capabilities. Drumm teaches how to create a new playlist to bust out of those old patterns—freeing individuals to lead with vision and passion.
Harness the power of music
In her book, Drumm teaches steps for creating a new playlist. One that uses music to prime the brain to rewire its pathways.
“It’s essentially a brain hack to help you make changes faster and make them stick,” Drumm says.
This helps you transform your life and your leadership mindset.
Think about babies who fall asleep to the same lullaby, every single night. Their brains understand that the familiar tunes mean it’s time to sleep. Athletes, similarly, use playlists and walkout songs to get hyped up and focused before games.
It’s a logic-based application of science. When you choose to listen to songs that instill confidence and inspire you before your weekly meetings with your team, you can go into those meetings more confident and inspired. Leaders can choose songs that have worked to build them up in the past. Or they can explore totally new songs to add to their personal playlists.
The book is packed with practical tips and a 7-step process, all backed by neuroscience, for improving your productivity, confidence, and efficiency.
Shake it up
Drumm references research on music’s power to boost oxytocin, affect heart rates, cause dopamine release, and lower stress. But just like old patterns of thinking can hold us back, old music can hold us back, too. Leaders need to listen carefully to the stories they’re telling themselves when listening to music (or repeating a mantra, or spending time with a certain person) in order to determine what’s helpful and what’s a hindrance.
However, The Leader’s Playlist isn’t just about how to use music to shift your state energetically, it’s about how to use music to essentially interrupt old deep-seated patterning and build new more enlightened neural pathways that will not only serve you but impact everyone around you.
With this in mind, Drumm teaches specific techniques for building your own playlist and applying it to your leadership. She teaches individuals how to overcome old ways of seeing things based on ingrained neural pathways.
Applying the playlist concept helps leaders see the big picture, lead from a place of joy, and attract like-minded individuals to their teams. Then, the leaders can inspire others to be their best, too. By using the playlist concept to bring empowered emotions, generous thoughts, and clear vision to their work, leaders can excel.