Leadership: Effective Management Is Like Music

By Harald Anderson

I have been an aspiring musician for thirty years. Recently I had an interesting musical experience which has profoundly affected my business.

One experience that I would suggest to all is to lead an orchestra. I got one such opportunity and realized the value. Quite naturally, I had my doubts about my ‘performance’. I wondered if I could lead correctly and would I get a response at all. And if somebody did respond, what would be the response. If I did appear foolish, how then would I expect others to follow? My orchestra was a group of conference participants sitting in to hone their leadership skills.

But surprise of surprises, I did look foolish, although by intent. But foolish enough to inspire the participants to do exceedingly well in their first ever stint as conductors. This set the stage and tone for the leadership workshop. When some joked that mine was an easy act to follow, I knew my job was done. With the music in the background, I started passing the baton, quite randomly, so that the participant could experience ‘Leadership’. This caught many by surprise but did get them to perform their stint as a conductor. Each ‘conductor’ performed his stint and passed on the baton to another and took his seat. I was certainly glad to note that each participant responded to the different styles of the leadership. They clapped, participated and even soloed in response to each new conductor.


In the debrief session that followed, it became abundantly clear that we had all learnt a great deal from this orchestra session:

– No one style is right. There are many approaches and styles to leadership. Style is driven by talent and hence the gains and goals of leadership.

– Besides, the leadership style is also dependent on the type of score of the soundtrack or the script that one is required to follow

– One’s leadership style may be influenced by the conductor or conducting style that one has begun to like. An interesting aspect in this was that each participant realized how different the view is from the audience as opposed to the conductor’s view of an orchestra. It was a different experience to conduct. Participants, upon returning to their seats, better appreciated the degree of difficulty, the risk, the roles and responsibility of conducting i.e. leadership. Those that managed to weave together the brass with the strings and the percussion provided the best performance. This was a reflection of how each leader was able to identify and gel the strengths of each musician and hence make some great music. The questions that will determine your own ability to lead an orchestra are:

– Are you able to lead the group well?

– How well do you connect with the different temperaments of your orchestra? Are you able to identify the quiet ones from the boisterous, the soloist from the quartets, and the steady back bones from the one-act types?

– How well do you appreciate the various strengths of your orchestra? Does the unconscious trump the self conscious? The best performances were elicited when each conductor stopped being self conscious. Conductors stopped being self conscious the moment their attention shifted from how they looked to how to get the best out of the ensemble. Each of the participants did realize that the role of the leader changed as the music changed. Each learnt to learn and adapt from those before and those who lead later. It was the brave and the expressive that got the encores and bravos from the followers.

About the Author: Harald Anderson is the co-founder of www.artinspires.com a leading online

motivational posters

gallery. His goal in life is to become the person his dog thinks he is.



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