Leading like an Opera Conductor

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Seated in the Opera Bastille watching the performance of La Boheme in Paris, I was fascinated by the orchestra playing in the pit. The different instruments delivered perfectly synchronized music accentuating the dramatic moments of the opera. This was made possible by the conductor, who led the ‘team’ to deliver a spotless performance. There are several leadership lessons that businesses could use from the work of a conductor.

  1. Fluid communication

Verbal communication is direct and quick. In rehearsals, the conductor could express his thoughts with words. During the performance, he has to use cues. The non-verbal communication becomes comprehensible by the ensemble only if the conductor provided explicit guidance on what each cue meant in advance. It certainly takes practice to internalize these cues. As a business leader, do you have this tacit understanding between you and your team?

  1. Team unification

The orchestra comprises musicians who play different instruments. Each musician might enter the piece at different times. The conductor has to provide the cue for their respective entrances in perfect harmony. It is a team effort. The outcome of a unified team is a memorable performance. In leading your team, how well do you know about the critical success factors so that you are able to unify your team to work in harmony?

  1. Valued resources

The conductor recognizes that he must bring forth the best playing in every musician because he doesn’t play the instrument himself. By knowing every musician well, the conductor provides the needed guidance and the appropriate motivation to the musician. What would you do to fully utilize the skills and expertise of your team?

  1. Full engagement

During the performance, the conductor immersed himself in the opera. He observed the movement of the singers on stage. He felt the emotions involved and used the appropriate gestures with his baton to lead the orchestra. The immersion got the musicians to be engaged as well. Potent music makes us feel sad, happy, exhilarated, or anxious. The audience became fully immersed in the performance. Do you demonstrate full engagement so that your team is committed?

A mediocre conductor would deliver fragmented music, jeopardizing the overall performance. For the same token, a business leader would marginalize results when he fails to observe these qualities.

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