#050: 8 Leadership Lessons from a Symphony Conductor [Podcast]

Not long ago, I sat in Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center watching Hugh Wolff, a world renowned conductor, lead the Nashville Symphony in a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, Op. 45. It was fascinating!

Toward the end of the evening, it occurred to me that conducting an orchestra and leading a team have much in common. In fact, this analogy has become so powerful to me that I can hardly talk about leadership without referring to this example.

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Here are eight leadership lessons I learned from watching a symphony conductor:

  • Lesson #1: Start with a plan.
  • Lesson #2: Recruit the best players.
  • Lesson #3: Be visible, so everyone can see you.
  • Lesson #4: Lead with your heart.
  • Lesson #5: Delegate and focus on what only you can do.
  • Lesson #6: Be aware of your gestures and their impact.
  • Lesson #7: Keep your back to the audience.
  • Lesson #8: Share the spotlight.

Who knew that the world of music had so much to teach us as leaders? But it does. Leadership lessons are everywhere, if we only look.

Listener Questions

A quick note: If you are one of the people listed below, please send my assistant, Tricia, an e-mail with your shipping address, so I can send you an autographed copy of my book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

  1. Adam Rico asked, “If someone has aspirations to move into an executive position in their career, what would you recommend they do now to prepare for an opportunity later?”
  2. Ben Nielsen asked, “As a leader, how much do you need to know about your teammates specialities?”
  3. Gary Morland asked, “How do you get a team aligned to work as one and think bigger than their own interests?”
  4. Hanno van der Bijl asked, “How do you adapt to other people’s work habits if you are an introvert?”
  5. Jim Ryan asked, “What should a leader do when he has department heads who aren’t playing nicely with one another?”
  6. Kim Avery asked, “What is the best way to lead an organization from underneath?”
  7. Mike St. Pierre asked, “How do I help my people work independently without completely relinquishing my role as their leader?”
  8. Tara Chrisco asked, “What tips do you have for leaders who ‘conduct a symphony’ where the orchestra members play for many different conductors and the reporting structure is loosely defined?”
  9. Timothy Moser asked, “Do you have any suggestions for ensuring that commitment is genuine before relying on team members?”

Special Announcements

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  3. My next podcast will be on the topic of “How to Build (or Re-Build) Trust.” If you have a question on this subject, please leave me a voicemail message. This is a terrific way to cross-promote your blog or website, because I will link to it, just like I did with the callers in this episode.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here, courtesy of Ginger Schell, a professional transcriptionist, who handles all my transcription needs.

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Question: What lesson from a symphony leader do you need to apply now to become a better leader?

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