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Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Young Conductor X - leadership 2

My last post introduced the importance of leadership (or the ability to lead) to be a successful conductor. Most of us learn much of what we know about leadership from our own conductors/mentors/models. This is one of the most important ways we learn.
But one can be more systematic and explore the rich literature on leadership. A quick search on Amazon led to 111,042 books on the topic! So there is no lack of books on leadership--it's more a question of figuring out which ones are worthwhile! Many come from the business world, others from the world of sports. As I mentioned, my series on John Wooden dealt in part with an approach to teaching, but leadership as well. I've read books by Nick Saban, Phil Jackson and others about leadership in the sports/coaching world. While I've read a fair number of books on business leadership over the years, most don't reside in my personal library. But I can certainly recommend Jim Collins' Good to Great and other books. I also like many of Stephen Covey's books and some of Tom Peter's.
In the music world, Benjamin Zander, long-time conductor of the Boston Philharmonic (not Symphony!), has a book co-authored with his wife, The Art of Possibility, plus a number of videos and a TED talk.
Ramona Wis has an excellent book, The Conductor As Leader, which deals directly with all these issues and which I can strongly recommend. She speaks a lot about "servant leadership," which is one model I find very helpful. This means that the leader is also a servant to her ensemble--what do you do to help your singers grow? How do you serve the composer's intentions? This is in contrast to a dictatorial style of leadership (which can also work, of course). I have a recent post on my personal blog about my HS teacher/mentor/friend, Neil Lieurance, who just died Sunday. He's a prime example of a servant leader--I owe him my career.
Kenneth Owen commented on my second post and my statement there that leadership was essential for success (but was rarely taught), with a link to his own blog on choral leadership, and I can recommend it highly.
The point is much the same as with my other blog posts: growth as a conductor is life-long. There's always more to learn. Young conductors who look towards a successful career should be exploring ideas about leadership throughout their careers. Jump in and begin to read more about the topic from the musical world, but also other fields where leadership is all-important. Talk to your mentors/teachers about this topic, ask questions, ask why they do what they do.
Again, the fun of this career is that you can always grow, always be better. And learning to be a leader is an important part of that growth.

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