lead like a conductor

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to use this, and now that I’ve written about Resonant Leadership, I think it’s probably best to do it now.  

Here’s the video of Italy Talgam’s talk at Ted, titled “Lead like the great conductors.”  It’s twenty minutes long, so if you haven’t got that kind of time, I’ve transcribed some quotes that communicate the message.  But do watch the whole thing when you’ve got twenty minutes.  The Bernstein clips at the end are well worth it.

Some excerpts:

What can you say the conductor was doing, actually?  “Um… he was happy.”  And I often show this to senior mangagement.  People get annoyed–“you come to work, how come you’re so happy?  Something must be wrong there, yeah?”  But he’s spreading happiness.  And I think the happiness, the important this is, this happiness does not comes from only his own story and his joy of music.  The joy is about enabling other people’s stories to be heard at the same time.

Here he is talking about contagion.  He’s sort of joking that people in the business world don’t value joy the way artists do–if you’re happy, it must mean you’re not working hard enough!  I’ll tell you now that the same is true in music, especially in academia.  Just like the rest of the world, we’re susceptible to the notion that hard work is work, which means suffering.  It’s easy to forget that our work is our joy.  But when we remember, it makes us better at our work.

this is the gesture of the music “I’m opening a space for you to put in another layer of interpretation, another story” like being on a roller coaster–you’re not given any instructions, but the forces of that process itself keep you in place… you have the plan in your head… you know what to do, and you become a partner building the roller coaster with sound as you take the ride…

I love this metaphor.  It’s not directly related to the Resonant Leadership stuff, except that it’s an image that demonstrates that a conductor can trust the music to hold the performers in place.  As long as they participate actively in it:

they do need to go to sanitorium two weeks later–it’s very tiring

Because this approach makes them leaders.  And, as I’ve already discussed, leading is draining.

When it’s needed the authority is there–that’s very important–but authority is not enough to make people your partners… 

Kleiber not only creates the process, but creates the conditions in the world in which this process takes place.


Lenny Bernstein always started from the meaning…the meaning of the music is pain and you look at Lenny and he’s suffering, like he’s enjoying himself in a Jewish way… you can see the music on his face… it’s about you, the player, telling the story… Bernstein enables that…

When I wrote about Enneagrams, I talked particularly about the artist, the romantic–type 4.  This enjoyment of strong emotion, both negative and positive, is a trait that serves conductors well.  Then, the ability to display the emotion in an effective, communicative way is priceless.  It is the purpose of our art.

If you do all these things we’ve been talking about and a few others, you get to the point of doing without doing..

See: Zen in the Art of Archery.

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