Entrepreneurial leadership research often takes place in the laboratory or through surveys, but Long Lingo takes an ethnographic approach to research by immersing itself in an environment to observe people’s behavior and unravel their actions.
She first noticed the skills and strategies of music producers while pursuing her doctorate in the joint program in Organizational Behavior and Sociology at Harvard University and Harvard Business School. During the day, she studied negotiations. At night, she spent time with her husband, a singer-songwriter, and watched the music production.
“I saw real negotiations happen,” she says, “and I saw how much ambiguity, passion, ego and soul went into producing music.”
The couple moved to Nashville, where she studied established and aspiring producers. In his article, Long Lingo describes producers who engage in behind-the-scenes creative brokerage with record company executives, writers, singers, musicians, and sound engineers. Producers navigate a constellation of relationships – strategically bringing actors together and pulling them apart to secure funding and access to top songs and to manage the subtle social dynamics of the recording studio.
For growers, Long Lingo’s research has been an opportunity to talk about how they work.
“I think it was the first time anyone asked them about their to work, not just the songs, or the studio, or the gear,” she says. “No one had asked them about leadership, negotiation, and the emotional challenges of working with people with egos and balancing technical challenges.”
Long Lingo, who also consults with executives and organizations on entrepreneurship and leading change, is taking the lessons she learned in Nashville and applying them to WPI. She is co-principal investigator on a $1 million National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant to examine and correct systemic biases that can undermine the promotion of female and underrepresented faculty to full professorship. As part of this effort, she created a training program for department heads, who play a critical role in advancing faculty but do not necessarily see themselves as creative expert leaders.
“I’m really excited about this,” she says, “because this is a chance for me to take my research on entrepreneurship and creative leadership and put it into practice immediately at WPI as part of this effort.”