Uninspired !


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.

sfo orchestra

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.

lag effect

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

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!


About johnrchildress

John Childress is 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
This entry was posted in Classical Music, consulting, corporate culture, Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Life Skills, Organization Behavior, strategy execution and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Uninspired !

  1. Pingback: Inspired ! | John R Childress . . . Rethinking

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s