Want to learn to manage people? Learn from conductors.

November 11, 2017

When it comes to managing, people tend to learn from managers.

That’s wrong.

If one wants to learn to manage people in a context of creativity, one should learn from conductors.

A conductor has the same challenges a manager has — selecting, motivating, leading and inspiring. But, while a manager tends to be measured by the mere bottom line, a conductor is measured by a higher standard — that of artistic quality. The bottom line is, of course, critical for an orchestra — but an orchestra is — more than any other business — judged by high artistic standards. So, if one believes creativity is essential for one’s business, one should learn from conductors.

Here are a couple of examples.

A Conductor Involves the Audience

An 4 minutes long example for warming up. This conductor engages the audience. Not only engages, but he has to train them. And to reward them. And he does it in a way, which is easy and fun, but nevertheless demanding.

Carlos Kleiber

For this example you’ll need an hour, but it’s worth it.

In 2011 the BBC voted Carlos Kleiber the greatest conductor of all time. Son of Erich Kleiber, another prominent director of his generation, Carlos didn’t study music, but by watching his father conduct. Erich Kleiber was known for saying “One Kleiber is enough.” Only after forced to study Chemistry and refusing to continue, did his father agree that Carlos can study music and conduct.

Traces to Nowhere is a beautiful documentary, unveiling Carlos Kleiber’s unique leadership style. His impossible, but effective, demands such as “Do not begin to play before you hear that your neighbour has began to play.” are legendary and demonstrate the crossing of the border between management and art.

How to Start a Movement?

Not about a classical conductor, but a beautiful example in itself, is the How to Start a Movement? YouTube video, which became rather famous several years ago. One can learn several different things from it, one of the most important being the way to treat one’s first follower.


Have a question or need help? Drop me a line at t.e.shaw@dahoum.wales.

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