Music as a Metaphor

In today’s world we are becoming more aware that learning from others, sharing different perspectives and experiences has become a necessity. Knowledge and experiences from leaders from other disciplines opens new visions as to the art of leadership. Leadership can be found wherever there are people who lead and people who follow, wherever there is interaction between them.

The world of music provides us many examples of leadership, of people working together to achieve great results. Musicians offer unique insight into how to listen, communicate and cooperate with others, use their imagination, create or solve problems.

Exploring the parallels between music and business we see that musicians and executives face similar issues at their workplace in dealing with leadership, teamwork, communication, performance value, change, competition, cultural diversity.

Music gives us the unique possibility to visit another place or time. Music history can teach us how musicians managed change within the political, social economical turmoil of the past.

By using music as a metaphor we are offered a new way of thinking, creating a new platform for discussion on key business issues.




3 tips to how Music conductors motivate their orchestral players

Conductors lead highly trained artists toward a unified end product.  They have independent minds and are likely to resent authority, while at the same time they recognize that some form of leadership is necessary for them to perform together effectively. Frequently they know each other better than they know their conductor. It is important for a conductor to remember this as he leads the orchestra. The ability to motivate the musicians in an orchestra is one of the most important skills a music conductor must possess.

Here are 3 tips on motivation from the conductor’s handbook:

1. Immediate performance appraisal. As Napoleon said “A man wouldn’t sell his life to you, but he will give it to you for a piece of colored ribbon”. A word of praise, or even just a  thumbs up is a major motivator. Performance, appraisal and feedback are interwoven to improve output on a second by second, minute-by-minute basis so immediate improvement is achieved.

2.Consider every musician a member of your family.Know all your members by name, address their concerns. When you walk out among the orchestra know that you are one of them.  A famous conductor came for a rehearsal, turned to one of the bass players and asked: ‘ How is your kid doing today – recovered from the flu?’ The bass player was from then onwards  ready to give out his very best for every rehearsal and performance.

3. Never critize or correct. After a viola player missed his entry, great conductor Herbert von Karajan looked over, as if to say, “I know my job, I hope you know yours. I won’t say anything now, but when we come to the recapitulation you’ll know what I am doing, and we’ll see what you do.” When the recapitulation came, of course, the player was ready and played it.  Karajan just glanced over again, as if to say OK, but not a word was spoken.

Lessons from Music for the businessperson (The Businessperson’s Guide to Music)

Essential tips for working together

Communication between people is of the highest priority in today’s and future management.   We search to understand the qualities of teamwork and look to all resources as how to enhance communication at our workplace as well as in our personal lives.

Executives and musicians face common issues at their workplace, in dealing with teamwork, change, achieving performance value, competing to succeed.  The world of music provides many examples of people working together to create great things in time of change. In that way we can  consider it a valuable metaphor to understand leadership and teamwork.

I would like to share with you essential tips of teamwork based on music from my own experience as well as from other musicians I have worked with or have heard of.

As a musician from very early childhood playing with other musicians was the most natural thing. My first collaboration was with my sister, a pianist, 3 years older than me. My first lesson was that I was not the leader and my sister the accompanist who would obediently listen to me, but that we were equals working together to perform our very best for our teachers, family and friends. We had to learn how to match our tone (our ideas) and at the same time be able to lead or quickly switch to accompany the other.

One of the first essential tools one had to learn as a musician were good manners: when one player gets lost, the others have to stop or give immediate support to continue, not just carry on because they can and they know where they are. And then be ready to restart playing at anytime.

These first lessons set up the principals by which all my further collaboration with other musicians up to this day is based on, whether it is playing together with my pianist or guitar player or with a larger chamber music ensemble.

When a music group starts to work, the initial A is played at the beginning to “tune” in the ensemble/team. It expresses a vision of partnership, teamwork, and relationship. In giving the A “the tone”, the manager and employee become a team for accomplishing the extraordinary.

Looking into a music team each member knows his part, is highly trained in his skills and is responsible to deliver his best. You must know how you fit within the whole, what your role is in the picture.  Flexibility is needed as various situations can arise where there will be the need to improvise, cover up for someone, restart and play on. Depending on the music score (business plan) you have to be ready at any time to take over leadership, pass it on or share it. It is a constant give and take situation. Working extensively together one learns each other’s moves and in that way creates the platform for a successful and empowering team. When I come to think of it, my long-time music partners and I have more of a silent dialogue taking place during our rehearsals.