Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lead like a great conductor

A few days ago I listened to Itay Talgam's talk, Lead like the great conductors. He shows different leadership styles with clips of famous orchestra conductors, explaining differences in their philosophies that influenced how each one directed their symphony. His metaphor of leadership as a symphony conductor resonates with me, especially combined with Ann's metaphor of forming habits to make a rhythmic, flowing symphony of our daily lives.

The first clip he shows is Carlos Kleiber directing the Vienna Philharmonic with energy, flair, and obvious joy. The audience is clapping along, and the whole orchestra appear to be enjoying themselves.

In the next clip he shows Riccardo Muti, whose style of conducting is quite different. Muti leads with stern passion, demanding excellence from the musicians. He shows another conductor who offers no expression at all, his face bland, a look of boredom on his face. His philosophy is to play the music exactly as it is written, carefully fulfill what is prescribed with no deviations. Then he shows a clip of Herbert Von Karajan, a famous conductor whose philosophy was to lead as little as possible, giving ultimate opportunity of expression and individuality to his orchestra. Talgam explains that Karajan's orchestra stayed together by following each other rather than their conductor, and that by offering such vague leadership he was in essence demanding them to read his mind, in reality a formidable form of control. He returns, at the end of his talk, to Carlos Kleiber leading an orchestra. Kleiber's motions are energetic and clear, but with joy, rather than threatening, and he allows, actually seems to inspire, an unusual depth of expression from the orchestra.

Now I wonder, how do I become a mother who inspires excellence, allows freedom of expression while keeping behavior in check, leads clearly and firmly but with joy? My natural tendency matches Muti's rigid intensity, feeling such a sense of responsibility that I dare not relax. I fear the opposite leadership style, Karajan's, as a path to chaos, discord, even anarchy. I have long struggled to find the balance that Kleiber achieves so well. It's struggle for the elusive, but now I have a mental picture of what it looks like. I still don't know exactly how to be the mother that leads with joy and inspires greatness, but this image in my mind gives me something to aim for, and may well be more helpful than any how-to book on the subject.

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