Pick Up The Baton

There aren’t many people able to conduct an orchestra, and very few of us will ever get the chance to try without putting in years of study and hard work first.

Last September ImprovEverywhere, (the people behind the annual No Pants Subway Ride) sat an ensemble of musicians from the Carnegie Hall Orchestra on a New York City street with an empty podium in front of them and a sign reading ‘Conduct Us’. It was a tantalising offer to passers by to rise to the occasion and have a go.

In life, those moments when you may be called upon to step up to the podium and take the lead might also be few. No matter how skilled the musicians, without a conductor, there’s no music. And in business, no matter how skilled the team, without leadership there’s no growth. Learning from the leadership of a conductor is one of the aspects of our Know the Score away day with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, translating the metaphors of music into the world of business.

Like those who passed by the Carnegie Hall musicians on the street in New York City, does the thought of taking the lead in your organisation fill you with fear and trepidation, or are you waiting in the sidelines, excited at the opportunity to take the place at the front of your organisation?

Back in New York the musicians took their places and waited to see who would stand to conduct them first. A small girl stepped forward, set her colouring book on the stand, and as she lifted the baton in the air, the orchestra began to play.

One by one, people stepped forward to have a go. Some were very energetic, some were clearly musical, some decided to try a non-conventional conducting style, and some gave up, but as each stepped down they were cheered for their courage by an ever growing crowd of onlookers.

The musicians themselves also responded to the different leadership styles – listen carefully and you can hear how the music differs depending on who is conducting. As in music so in business, the personality of the leader always shines through.