Like business teams, rock bands are groups of collaborators, each with a separate function, tasked with creating a sustainable product in the marketplace.

Some of these musical teams stand the test of time, producing success after success. Others are one-hit wonders that disappear overnight.

Taking a lesson from the best rock bands, businesses that want engaged, high-performing teams will:
  • Give employees a tall challenge.
  • Encourage creativity, passion and celebration.
  • Provide teams the tools to leverage conflict.
  • Help them define their brand identity.
  • Promote independent thinking
Meet the Expert

About John

  • 29 years as a management consultant and trainer, working with Peter Senge, Fernando Flores, Werner Erhard and most recently Tom Peters.
  • Author of management blog, "Business Lessons from Rock," applying the success qualities of top rock-and-roll bands to mainstream business teams.
  • Clients have included: Anglo American, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Commerce Bank, Deloitte & Touche, DHL, Digital Equipment Corporation, Emerson & Cuming, Innovation Associates, Johnson & Johnson, Lincoln Financial Group, Lockheed Martin, MacMillan, Bloedel, Minorco, Pfizer, Schindler, TPI Composites, Teck, Tyler Equipment, US Army, Wellpoint/Anthem, Weyerhaeuser.
  • As a musician, singer and songwriter for 18 years before launching business consulting career, shared the stage with more than two dozen Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members and more than 50 other famous rock, pop, blues, folk, or country artists.


Principal • John O'Leary & Associates
2005 — Present
  • Organizational change consulting, executive coaching, management training, conflict resolution, team formulation and coaching.
  • Clients have included Johnson & Johnson, Deloitte, DHL, Teck, Schindler, Lockheed Martin, Cisco, and small hi-tech startups.
Senior Consultant • Tom Peters Company
2001 — 2006
  • Organizational change consulting, executive coaching, management training.
  • Clients included Commerce Bank, Wellpoint (Anthem), Lincoln Financial Group, U.S. Army.
Independent Consultant • John O'Leary
1994 — 2000
  • Organizational change consulting, executive coaching, management training – usually in engineering, mining or manufacturing environments.
  • Clients included AT&T, Minorco, Anglo American, MacMillan Bloedel, Weyerhaeuser.
Director of Training • Innovation Associates
1993 — 1994
  • Ran the department responsible for production of leadership workshops conducted by IA co-founder Peter Senge and others.
  • IA pioneered the body of concepts and methods of "learning organizations" on which Senge published his landmark management bestseller, "The Fifth Discipline."
Director of Marketing, Senior Consultant • Synergy Associates
1985 — 1992
  • Organizational change consulting, executive coaching, management training – in addition to marketing and selling.
  • Consulting clients included Digital Equipment Corporation and Tyler Equipment.
Musician, Songwriter, Singer • John O'Leary
1967 — 1985
  • Shared the stage with more than two dozen Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members and more than 50 other famous rock, pop, blues, folk, or country artists.
  • Played in – or fronted – a dozen bands as a pianist, guitarist, or drummer, plus studio session work. (Usually the business manager for these bands also.)
  • Still performs, solo and with bands, but only part-time.
  • Also ran for U.S. president in 1984 and wrote a book about it, "The Running Game," which was excerpted in Harper's.


Yale University
Studied philosophy, psychology and Ancient Greek, but left after three years to play for a rock and roll band, 1968


  • Blog, "Business Lessons from Rock," listed by HR World as one of "The Top 100 Management and Leadership Blogs that All Managers Should Bookmark."
  • Book, "The Running Game," New York Zoetrope, about O'Leary's U.S. presidential campaign in 1984.
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