I recently watched a “TED” video in which the renowned orchestra leader Itay Talgam, pointed to several 20th century conductor ‘greats’ and the lessons their leadership held for business leaders of today. The connection to business leadership is especially fascinating once we realize that no verbal exchanges take place when conducting the orchestra and still, the group, or team if you will, have the potential of making the most beautiful music … and that requires cooperation, willingness to be part of a team and a sense of responsibility both to the individual musician’s role and that of the full orchestra.
Appropriately intrigued I wanted to explore the connection between conducting music and leading an organization, a department or a group. I came upon an article in which Jazz maestro Dominic Alldis was interviewed and the resulting article, “Symphony of Leadership”. I challenge that as you to read the key points Alldis has identified, you forget it being written from a music perspective and enjoy the similarity to effectively leading within a business organization: The most significant connections include:
- Conducting represents the corporate world. “It conveys metaphors of collaboration (not competition), appreciation of diversity and creativity, and culture and tradition.
- There is a periodic ‘check-in’ with the leader/conductor although an individual’s focus is on their personal tasks, . This provides the reassurance from their leader that they are on the right path and serves to add energy to their performance. Being an effective team player also requires periodic acknowledgement of the leader at key moments while continuing to perform in one’s specific area.
- “A leader is crucial to bring together varying voices and give it a sense of unity.”
- It conveys the importance of listening quietly and patiently.
- The conductor is akin to leading in business. The making of eye contact with each of his team members, gesticulating with his hands and managing to convey to each the highs and lows that they must take in order to produce beautiful music.” Such eye contact and other non-verbal communication allows people to know they are respected, have a true value and are contributing to the whole.
- The conductor is the only person in the orchestra who makes no sound. He is merely there to help his team members make music. “This just goes to prove that leadership is never about control or dominance, it is all about support, understanding, and effective and timely communication.”
So to any of us who equate effectively leading as being verbally forceful and communicating in a loud and clear voice … maybe not. When Teddy Roosevelt said “speak softly and carry a big stick: you will go far” … maybe he was a fan of music. I don’t know about you yet the music conductor metaphor seems to provide an interesting model and something to strive for. Does it make sense from your experience? I’d love to read your comments!