A Great Day

“We change through conversation.”

Every once in a while we are blessed with one of those great days. I’m not talking about the weather. I am referring to an interaction with some extraordinary people. You don’t necessarily plan it or set it up to be “special”, but the universe serves it up and you were carried along, loving every moment as it unfolds

Recently I spent 2 hours with Benjamin Zander at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts having tea and talking. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Ben is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, a world famous musician, an expert on the music of Mahler, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, and the co-author along with his partner, Rosumund, of the best selling book, The Art of Possibility. And besides all these accolades he is a gifted teacher of music to children and young adults through his work with the New England Conservatory.

One of the reasons I was fortunate enough to spend time with Ben is that my violinist daughter meet him in London at a music workshop. The other reason is my very good friend is the Chairman of the Board of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.

I am certainly not a professional musician so as we drove over to Ben’s house for tea I was wondering, “What in the heck do I have in common with this world renowned maestro”? I was imagining myself sitting there like a lump on a log with nothing to say while he and my friend talked about issues dealing with the Board of Directors and the BPO.

But Ben Zander is much more than a great musician and conductor. He is also an effective leader and very passionate about teaching leadership. Bingo! Common ground. We could share stories about leadership. Wrong!

What turned it from a potentially “interesting” day into a great day was that we wound up sharing personal leadership challenges, situations we were struggling with and frustrations of how to make a difference under challenging circumstances. All during our interactions of listening and sharing I was reminded of something my mentor, Thomas D Wilhite, used to say, “nothing becomes great without great resistance”. After today I better understand why Benjamin Zander is a great leader.

I learned a lot about leadership during our two hours together, and I learned about myself as well, which is possibly the most valuable learning of all.

“The best investment is in your own self learning.”

Thank you, Ben, for the sharing and the learning.

Tight Lines . . .

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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