I occasionally see suggestions that business leaders should act more like orchestra conductors. The idea being that you as a leader should guide your business like a conductor leads an orchestra. Well, you shouldn’t!
When asked if the orchestra conductor is a good role model for business leaders, Ben Zander, a conductor himself, answered: “It’s the worst! The conductor is the last bastion of totalitarianism in the world—the one person whose authority never gets questioned. There’s a saying: Every dictator aspires to be a conductor.” This quote is from Harvey Seifter’s & Peter Economy’s book Leadership Ensemble: Lessons in Collaboration Management from the World’s Only Conductorless Orchestra, page 10. In this book, they describe the eight core principles used by the Orpheus Conductorless Orchestra to consistently bring out the best in each musician.
The eight Orpheus principles are:
- Put power in the hands of the people doing the work. An organization’s creative potential can only be fully realized when its members are given the authority to make decisions that have impact.
- Encourage individual responsibility. With authority comes responsibility. Instead of waiting for a supervisor, individuals take the initiative to resolve issues as expeditiously as possible.
- Create clarity of roles. Unclear roles can lead to conflict, wasted effort, poor morale, and poor quality. Clarity of roles minimizes confusion and ensures that each individual’s energies are effectively focused.
- Share and rotate leadership. Encourage everyone to lead at some point. By sharing and rotating leadership, organizations can benefit from the unique skills and experience of each individual.
- Foster horizontal teamwork. Cross-organizational teams have wide-ranging individual expertise. Teams with individual and group authority reduce the time it takes to make informed decisions and ensure that everyone works together to achieve goals.
- Learn to listen, learn to talk. Everyone is expected to listen actively and intently, and to speak directly and honestly. Successful work requires a constant flow of two-way communication.
- Seek consensus (and build creative structures that favor consensus). The group cannot move forward unless its members agree to move together in the same direction at the same time. Seeking-and finding consensus is a vital element in how to get things done. Put clear and effective mechanisms in place to resolve deadlock.
- Dedicate passionately to your mission. Passion drives the decision-making. The mission isn’t imposed from above, but is determined—and constantly refined—by the members themselves.