Attention, Maestros!

November 2010, by So-Young Kang

We hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year!

I was recently at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles watching Dudamel conduct the LA Philharmonic. It brought back so many memories of the many years playing the violin, piano and the year I got to conduct the orchestra during my senior year of High School. I remember when the moment I put my hand down, something amazing would happen; music would emerge out of thin air—like magic!

It made me reflect on how conducting is very similar to the influence we have as leaders.

What is the role of a great conductor and what does this have to do with leadership?

1. Know the score of music you are playing. A conductor studies the music and knows where the breaks and pauses are, knows when the next movement is and knows what instruments are required. Do we need flutes for this piece? A pianist? Knowing the score of music or the playbook is about being clear about the vision and strategy you are pursuing.

2. Make decisions around how you want to interpret the music. A conductor needs to not just know the notes on the page but must make decisions around ‘how’ to interpret the music. As a leader this is about being clear around ‘how’ you choose to lead – will it be ‘by the book’ or will you ‘take creative license to pause an extra moment at that fermata’?

3. Lead a group of extremely talented individual musicians (many who are better at their instrument than you are). This is what conductors and leaders do every single day if we believe that each individual in our organization is full of talent and potential. However it’s not easy to create great music. This requires each individual to be excellent at their individual instrument or function or skill requires discipline, training and many, many hours of practice.

4. Bring together these talented individuals to be coordinated and in rhythm to create music. Conductors integrate all of these different instruments with different sounds and roles and bring them together to create beautiful music. This is what we do as leaders. As different as all of our organizations are, the one thing we have in common is that it’s full of diverse and unique individuals, and our role is to allow them to be able to play the violin in ‘their’ unique way while contributing to the overall piece.

5. Respond in the moment as every performance is unique and never the same. No two performances are ever the same so, conductors are always responding in the moment to any changes, reacting and adjusting to keep the piece moving while enjoying the journey of creating. As leaders, when it comes to executing the plan – our strategy and playbook – we need to be able to be flexible and adaptable to respond quickly in the moment. What would happen if we were to assume that ‘no plays are ever exactly the same’ in business?
As leaders, we are like conductors with an orchestra of individual musicians. How can we bring out the best in each musician while bringing everyone together to be ‘in rhythm’?

As part of ‘how’ we work to integrate diverse, extremely talented ‘musicians,’ we are excited to launch our global “Creative Collaborative” to perform “great music” and solutions for our clients because it’s amazing what you can create if you have a group of extremely talented individual musicians in your orchestra.

What type of music will you be creating?