Musical knowledge isn’t required when it comes to understanding lessons of leadership and partnership from great musicians, musical groups, and conductors. Organizations often reflect styles of music, changing and growing over time. Maybe your organization is steady and constant, like a marching band, everyone synchronized with constant forward momentum. Or perhaps it resembles some Dixieland jazz, where there is an overall structure that remains the same but improvisation comes and goes throughout, constantly adding new flavors to the existing framework. But what if that structure gets old and outdated? It’d be time for a change. The point is: there is no one musical style that suits all situations, just as there is no one specific organizational structure or even leadership style that works throughout the lifetime of a single organization – from conception to birth, through growth and beyond.
In his book, The Ignorant Maestro: How Great Leaders Inspire Unpredictable Brilliance, author Itay Talgam takes us through a journey – both of music and of growth. Instead of purporting the best leadership style is x, y, or z, he instead lays out three new themes of leadership, then draws connections between these themes and 6 of the conducting greats throughout history. Below is a brief look into his ideas and new leadership themes, as expressed in the book.
These three themes of leadership show up in each of Talgam’s six case studies, from the general military-like leadership of the great conductor Muti, to the paternalistic control of Toscanini, to the all-encompassing empathetic engagement of the great Leonard Bernstein. But is any one style the “right” style? Is there even a correct way to lead? In short, maybe not. There are moments when you need top down control, and others when you need all team members to feel equally invested and responsible. What we can learn from each of these conductors is one way of going about things, in order to help us expand our own leadership styles. When we try to cut down on our variation, we become narrow and even limited. Expand your view of leadership by taking cues from the greats and finding your own style. No one ever revered an imitator. Grow your authentic self and strive to be flexible and versatile in your own leadership style.
I encourage you to pick up this book today and listen to what the musical world can teach you. Musician or not, Talgam’s messages are extremely relevant and applicable to the corporate world, while also pushing us to step outside of our comfort zones. By taking you into his world, Talgam brings you full circle with tales from his own journeys in the musical and corporate worlds.