Interpersonal intelligence is the capacity to sense the feelings of others and respond appropriately. Of course conductors need this. We work with people! We are the leaders of a little community, making music together as a team. The better we are at sensing people’s feelings and responding in healthy and healthful ways, the better job we do.
Is high interpersonal intelligence required? Oddly, no. There are a lot of stories of jerks who flail: mean, selfish, ego-centric conductors who treat musicians poorly. In fact, that’s part of the stereotype of a conductor. I have a theory that sometimes people revere a jerk because they assume that someone who treats others with disdain must actually be better than those other people. Obviously that’s just a theory, based on some early experiences of my own.
These days, EQ, or emotional intelligence, is growing in importance. People are realizing that treating people well is good for business, being a thoughtful and insightful leader is profitable. It also makes better music. And interpersonal intelligence is half of that. So, more and more as time goes forward, high interpersonal intelligence is not required but highly desirable.
The other half of emotional intelligence is intrapersonal intelligence, to be tackled next Monday.
For now, I’ll just mention the example of Gareth Malone, from The Choir. I’ve been writing about that show, and I believe I’ve already mentioned Gareth’s charm and enthusiasm. He’s also nice and pretty sensitive and that carries him a long way. I mean, he’s an okay musician and a pretty bad conductor, but those are musical and kinesthetic skills, which are only part of the picture. The man’s rocking the interpersonal intelligence and working it out.
Sweet, right? That kind of charisma can’t be dismissed. That’s what makes it work for him. And, the point of this whole multiple-intelligence series is to show how all these strengths can benefit a conductor, but that no conductor needs all of them as long as he knows what his strengths are and uses them to make it work.
And I’ll get to that bit next week.