Uninspired = Uninspiring = Mediocre Performance = Bored Audience
Leadership has a definite knock-on effect. The principle of “shadow of the leader” came vividly back to me while sitting for 2 1/2 hours in the Royal Albert Hall in London listening to conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra last evening. The three pieces played couldn’t have been more different from each other, a modern piece by American composer Charles Ives, Decoration Day; then a complex piano concerto by Bartok played by Chinese virtuoso Yuja Wang, and finally the classic Beethoven Symphony No. 3.
But there was something similar in all three, the uninspired leadership of the conductor. To me, and many of those around me who I observed dosing off repeatedly throughout the evening, the conductor, famous and celebrated as he is, was simply “going through the motions”. A practiced performance, technically remarkable, but lacking emotion. Uninspiring is definitely the word I would use to describe Tilson Thomas last evening.
And in true shadow of the leader fashion, the orchestra, a collection of mature, professional and seasoned veterans, seemed to perfectly mimic their leader. After all, the conductor doesn’t make the music, it’s the musicians, and from uninspired conducting comes uninspiring playing. Technically very good, but lacking emotion or, in corporate terms, employee engagement!
And so last evening uninspired, robotic conducting led to uninspiring playing, which resulted in a mediocre performance and a rather bored audience. The knock-on effect of leadership behaviour.
What was interesting is that the 6 minute encore piece they played at the end seemed to have all the fire, inspiration and emotion that the previous 2 1/2 hours lacked. But it’s impossible to make it all up at the end, just too many hours of mediocrity.
Reminds me of a lacklustre leadership team trying to rally the troops for a 4th Quarter push to make the yearly goals! Too little too late.
From the Orchestra Hall to the Workplace
Over the past 30+ years I have interacted with many leadership teams representing every type of business, from automobile manufacturing to nuclear power, to Snack Foods and Grocery Store chains, to retail clothing and retail banking. And in every situation it is possible to see the knock on effect of the behaviour of the leader and the behaviour of the leadership team far down into the organization. Not only does the behaviour of the CEO and the senior team put a firm imprint on the corporate culture, but their attitudes and behaviour are magnified down into the organization.
Uninspired Leadership Team = Uninspiring Leadership = Uninspired Employees = Mediocre Performance.
The big difference between the shadow of the leader effect within an orchestra and a business organization is that there is no time lag with the orchestra. The effects of an Uninspired Conductor are immediate in the quality of the performance. In a business, there is generally a lag effect, and it goes both ways. That’s why just focusing on results in business is a very poor indicator of what is really driving performance.
Next time you want to deliver outstanding results and a great performance, make certain you, the leader (conductor) are personally inspired about what you are doing. If you aren’t inspired and fully engaged, why should they be?
PS: My one person advice to orchestra conductors, find a way to make every piece meaningful and inspiring to you, even if you have performed it a hundred times, rather than just going through the motions. The results will be spectacular, and the audience will stay awake!
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
John also writes thriller novels!