Quick Clicks: The Conductor’s Baton

“The most difficult instrument to master in an orchestra is the conductor’s baton.”

— Leonard Bernstein

Maestro Bernstein, through this observation, unknowingly (perhaps) but classically underscores the importance and the place of a leader within an organization, and with equal insight allows us to understand that followers are also masters of their own talents and skills.

It is important to note that taking a step back we see that an orchestra is much like an organization in any other arena of life.  Like an ensemble of highly-talented musicians, the organizations we lead and are a part of are composed of individuals who work alongside those of like interests.  In turn, those interests are developed, appropriately equipped and then placed together with the appropriate number of others who share a specific skill-set, and then join with others whose talents have been honed with other instruments.

As that ensemble arrives together to perform, they agree on a strategic framework that includes the specific form of work they will perform, the pace and tempo in which it will be accomplished, and the sequence in which any number of persons will add their contributions to the overall performance or work.

The leader of the organization, just like the conductor, seeks to learn thoroughly and continually those in his ‘orchestra’; to accurately understand and appreciate each member’s skills and support them to be ready for successful performances.  The leader must know the expectations of the work being called for, and s/he must be certain to know when to call upon someone within the organization to make their work successfully join and augment that of the rest of the company.  This is especially important because we know that like other professional genres, what we are called upon to do with great skill one day may change significantly soon, and often in a new setting.

Lastly, while we are reminded that a conductor may have his/her back to the ‘audience’ as the score is performed, in fact the conductor remains in proper position to keep the members in precise unison.  And like the conductor, it is the leader who chooses to focus upon seeing that his/her organization is supported fully at all times with direction, support, and reaffirmation of each member’s contributions to the greater success of the organization.

Source: “Bernstein: A Biography” by Joan Peyser.