Commentary by Mark Loschiavo

Many well known management gurus have used the metaphor of the orchestra in the past – Peter Drucker and Henry Mintzberg, to name a couple.

Prof. Paddy Miller, who is professor of managing people in organizations at IESE Business School describes a program where business leaders were exposed to music conducting. The following are just a few excerpts:

Regarding Communication

What they saw was a leader who knew every instrument intimately. They also saw a leader who knew every musician intimately. When combined, musician and instrument, the leader knew the limitations of the combination and got the most out of them. His encouragement, support, advice, admonishment was immediate. Performance, appraisal and feedback were interwoven to improve output on a second by second, minute-by-minute basis. It was clear, directed and aimed at improving the performance of a musician, a section or the whole orchestra. There was a total communication system in process, one that was two-way. It involved verbal and non-verbal signals and was specifically aimed at performance.”

Regarding Vision

Watching the conductors, we learned some interesting things about being a leader. While their actions portrayed an intense involvement with the entire orchestra all the time, few conductors speak about their visions – they feel them.

“It is hard to explain,” said Carrasco, “But I don’t tell musicians my vision. I want them to feel it. I project my vision through my body, my gestures, my eyes, my voice.”

Regarding Trust

“Conductors also rely on trust. Trust is a vital part of their ability to lead. The musicians trust the conductor to lead them to a successful completion of the piece. Without a leader there is no trust, with no trust performance falters. Trust here is a tacit requirement in the leader and his musicians. They do not speak about trust; they do not take it for granted. A conductor builds it up over time through close contact with individuals, sections and the orchestra as whole. Eventually they want to know that they are safe in the hands of the conductor and he in turns knows he can depend on his team.”

Regarding Power

“During these illuminating sessions, we often closed with members of the orchestra reflecting on the power that conductors brought to their jobs. The music and its message had power. If one listens to Vivaldi or Mozart, there is power and it is the job of the conductor to interpret that power, to bring new energy to something that has been played over and over for a hundred years or more.”

I have been playing guitar since the age of nine, and have been a singer/songwriter/musician for over 40 years. Over those 40 years music has taught me a great deal about entrepreneurial leadership. It

has taught me:

  • The importance of starting with a solid foundation.
  • The need to work within an accepted framework, even when trying to define a new one.
  • The importance of knowing when to lead and when to let others lead.
  • The importance of timing and pace.
  • That when appropriate, improvisation can make the difference between a good and a great performance. 
  • That playing through the mistakes is always better than stopping the music and fretting over those mistakes.
  • The importance of knowing your audience.
  • That a song is only as good as the vision of the songwriter, and that the vision, like the songs cries out to be shared.

And Finally:

  • A song can only be made better if you surround yourself with the right people who share your passion and drive.

©Mark P. Loschiavo

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