Lead Like The Great Conductors

Itay Algam Ok I’m really on a roll with the TED talks so this will be the third blog based on a talk. (see this post for background on this). What I am really appreciating, particularly about last week and this week, is the opportunity to contrast leadership through very different lenses – the military, and musicians. It’s fascinating to see that in many ways, leadership is leadership is leadership. The qualities of a leader and leadership apply everywhere. This is something we talk about a lot at 2130. Everyone can be a leader where they are in their own lives, both at work and on the personal level.

So let’s focus on this week’s topic “Lead Like the Great Conductors” which was a TED talk by Itay Talgam. After a decade-long conducting career in his native Israel, Talgam is now a “conductor of people in business.” In this talk he discusses how an orchestra conductor faces the ultimate leadership challenge: creating perfect harmony without saying a word. He illustrates key points of leadership through videos of different conductors from around the world. For me the following pieces were extremely relevant to business:

Conductor 1: A very happy feeling here. Describing the conductor Talgam says, “His happiness is not coming from his personal story. It is the joy of enabling others’ stories to be heard at the same time.” By this he meant all the musicians being heard, the instruments that are an expression of their makers and even the builders of the beautiful symphony hall. This is an extraordinary comment on the possibility of leadership. What if your satisfaction, fulfillment and success as a leader came from enabling your people and their expression and fulfillment? What if their success really was your success, not from a “standing on their shoulders” kind of way, but from them stepping out and giving their all? What if this could actually create joy in your life?

Conductor 2: This conductor had a very commanding, specific, directive style. Not too long ago, all 700 musicians of La Scala signed a letter to this conductor basically saying, “you are a great conductor and we will not work with you anymore.” Apparently their issue was they felt they were being used “merely as instruments” and were not allowed to develop and grow. So as we have pointed out so often “command and control” is on the way out – everywhere - in music, in the military and in corporations. What if your employees wrote you such a letter? What if you were required to step down as a result? Perhaps it’s unfortunate this isn’t what happens in organizations.

Conductor 5: Talgam describes his style as “musical gesture” meaning he is creating an opening for another layer of interpretation by the musicians. By doing this he created partnership with the musicians. He was present, but not as a commander. He was also very much enjoying what the soloists were doing and acknowledging them with various gestures. Talgam noted he was, “creating conditions for success.” In our work, particularly in our Productive Interactions program, we call this “creating a productive environment.” This is truly a masterful form of leadership. Creating an opening for others to spread their wings and step into it is a profound leadership style which takes incredible skill. It comes from who leaders BE rather than what they DO, which is something that is fundamental to the work we do at 2130 Partners.

We recommend taking a look at the TED talks we have reviewed the last three weeks and use the contrast of leadership lenses outside the realm of business to illuminate where you are at today and who you want to be as a leader.