I have just been to see Daniel Barenboim conducting the Berlin StadtsKapelle playing two Brahms symphonies. What a wonderful experience!
It is so much more than listening to a great performance of a great piece of music. It led me to wonder if those who speak of a great leader as being like being a great conductor have considered the full depth of the ways in which seeing people like Barenboim can enrich our view of what the leader really is.
Of course, there is the obvious piece about enabling the different parts of the orchestra to play together and between them, with their differences, create something wonderful.
But there is more than that. We watched Barenboim stand back sometimes, because they were working perfectly without him. Then sometimes he would take the energy and raise the level, or blend it in a different dynamic, or bring the parts together to make a whole. He would encourage some to play with more heart, and quiet others to let the glory of one piece stand out. And all this and more was done with the minimum of intervention, using what was already there and building on it.
In order to achieve this, we assume that he works with the orchestra members outside the performance, encouraging them, forging relationships with them, inspiring them with a passion for the music, so that during the performance, there is only the need for tiny reminders.
He also set the tone for how to be in the situation. He came on stage, dignified, and very present and calm. Both audience and orchestra knew from the start that this would be wonderful, because his quiet assurance told us so. He also received the applause with grace, acknowledging every section of the audience for their feedback, and ensuring that they gave recognition to those who had played their part outstandingly, by getting different individuals from every part of the orchestra to stand up and take a bow. He valued everyone, in the audience and the orchestra, yet gave some a special thank you for their contribution.
I sat entranced, and realised how we may blithely state that a great leader is like the conductor of an orchestra, yet most of us do not remind ourselves of what a rich metaphor that really is. As a conductor, Daniel Barenboim is outstanding and recognised. As a role model for a great leader, he is excellent and powerful.
Why not treat yourself and go to a classical concert in the next few months? You can enhance your leadership skills while enjoying an inherently enriching experience.