A refreshing perspective on leadership


Today I attended a session on Leadership Development on a Shoe-string at the online canadian pharmacy Leadership SIG of the local HRINZ.  Peter Walls, ex- CEO of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, was a member of the excellent panel of speakers.

Peter pointed out that the leadership role of the conductor of an orchestra has many similarities to other leadership positions:

  1. The conductor must convey the vision for the music from the podium, so that the orchestra has a very strong sense of what the music is meant to be.
  2. The conductor must have terrific competence to have enough of a grip on the various groups of instruments to be able to have supportive and challenging conversations with the leaders of the various groups, in order to get their team’s best contribution.
  3. The players must have  developed a relationship of high trust in the conductor – high enough to be able to feel part of the important larger whole, but also to know they have enough scope and space to deliver the best solo performance when required.

Despite the obvious differences, isn’t that so like any leadership position? So much so that it reminded me yet again of the very interesting work by conductor Ben Zander. I’ve blogged before about ‘The Art of Possibility’.  

I think it is one of the most readable of personal development books, partly because of Zander’s ability to embed the ideas in the music context.

There’s a wonderful Ben Zander quote: ‘The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound.  He depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful’

If you like the analogy, The Maestro Executive  can take your leadership thinking further. The article identifies 4 parallels:

  1. Have a ‘sound’ vision. Don’t just communicate it, embody it.
  2. Exercise your leadership in real time, not just from the boardroom or by email.
  3. Lead without doing. You provide the vision & leadership, they make it happen.
  4. Remember your job is to make magic!

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