The business of conducting: awakening possibility in others
IN THE UNCHARTERED WATERS of the information age, anything is possible. The world is constantly changing. This means leaders can’t rely on the past to predict future. Old ways of doing things just won’t work.
But, new and extraordinary ways of doing things will only be invented by those who awaken to the universe of possibility, and use their imagination, question the obvious and entertain the improbable.
In leading the rehearsal of a diverse group of musicians at a recent event hosted by the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science, South Africa’s favourite conductor Richard Cock demonstrated an increasingly important leadership trait: the art of awakening possibility in others.
The art of conducting is not simply about getting diverse and talented musicians, often with strong personalities, to work together to achieve a common goal. It is also not about standing in front of an orchestra and beating time. “Anyone can do that,” said Cock.
“A good conductor enables individual musicians to shine. In other words, a conductor enables every musician to be the best performer they could be,” said Cock. Through many subtle actions, he extracts breathtaking music from a group of players.
Word-renowned conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra Benjamin Zander describes a great performance as one that stirs your soul, rearranges your molecules, and turns your being inside out.
There are a number of similarities between leadership and conducting: A good conductor embodies a sound vision Cock says anyone can stand in front of an orchestra and make the basic gestures that start and stop the orchestra. Great conductors have a passionate vision for the music, and skil- fully lead an orchestra to perform that vision.
If everyone followed their own vision, it would be chaos. So, the conductor leads the orchestra with one vision.
Although he/she may verbally communicate the vision of what he wants to create in the music to the members of the orchestra, the real test is communicating his vision through the non-verbal act of conducting.
The conductor’s every movement, eye contact, thought and breath must embody that vision.
Cock shares Zander’s view that the new leader‘s job is to create a powerful vision that allows room for things to occur that are as yet undreamed of. The leader must hold the definition of the vision so clearly that all the players involved are able to align with it daily. And that vision leads to a great performance. A good conductor leads in real-time As an example of leadership in action, conducting is about communicating and embodying the vision from start to finish. The entire organisation could disintegrate if the leader loses focus on his/her vision or stops “conducting the orchestra.” A good conductor leads without doing Cock said individual players only get the bigger picture during rehearsal, when the musicians sit together and play their individual parts. The conductor must know the master plan and what everyone is supposed to do.
A conductor leads without seeming to, and without people being fully aware of everything he does.
A conductor knows what he/she wants from every instrument and understands their strengths and weaknesses.
Cock says he leaves the technical details to the players who are all experts. He trusts every player to play their part.
A conductor works toward building the best team of experts who are willing and able to follow his/her vision. A good conductor creates magic Great conductors don’t necessarily have a novel way of performing a piece of music, but have a great deal of artistic integrity and passion. That’s why magic follows them.
Cock, who loves bringing music to the masses and converting them to the cause of orchestral and choral music in particular, said here are a few things people can do to develop into “maestro” leaders: Watch conductors in action
particular attention to the conductor. Be conducted
musical group Work with conductors
conductors and/or musicians the people on the organisation’s leadership development programme Reflect on your own leadership -
municate it – embody it the boardroom or by memo, but in real time vision and leadership, and letting others make it happen As a grand finale to the evening, Cock demonstrated how a good leader can awaken possibility in anyone and spur them into inspired action. He got everyone in the audi from Beethoven‘s 9th Symphony – an iconic piece that speaks of hope, the future and immortality – in German.
Never doubt people’s capacity to accomplish whatever you dream for them.