8 Leadership Lessons from a Symphony Conductor

by Michael Hyatt  
November 6
, 2012
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A while back, Gail and I went to the Nashville Symphony with our daughter, Mary, and her husband, Chris. Mary had bought tickets for Gail's birthday. It was a magnificent evening.

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The orchestra was conducted by the renowned Hugh Wolff. He and the orchestra performed Beethoven's Concerto No. 4 in G major for Piano and Orchestra. Horacio GuitiƩrrez played the piano. After the intermission, the orchestra performed Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances, Op. 45.

We had seats on the second row. I was less than twenty feet from Hugh Wolff. I was fascinated just watching him lead the orchestra. Toward the end of the evening, it occurred to me that conducting an orchestra and leading a team have much in common:

  1. The conductor has a plan. Conductors start with a score and a clear idea of how the music should sound. Only then do they attempt to recreate in real time their musical "vision."
  2. The conductor recruits the best players. Great conductors attract great players. Mediocre conductors attract mediocre players. The very best players want to work for the very best conductors. Like attracts like.
  3. The conductor is visible, so everyone can see him. The conductor stands on a platform, so that every single member of the orchestra can see him. This is the only way the orchestra can stay in alignment, with each player starting and stopping at the appropriate time.|
  4. The conductor leads with his heart. Great conductors are swept up in the music. They are passionate. They don't just play with their head; they also play with their heart. You can read it on their face. You can sense it in their movement. They are fully present and "playing full out."


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