My last post concerned the principle of “shadow of the leader”, with a perfect example coming from a recent outing to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London to watch the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, ‘Eroica’.
The shadow of the leader principle is based on the fact that we are social animals and tend to copy the behaviour of those in leadership positions. When early mankind evolved, this was a survival mechanism. Fitting in with the tribe and gaining the favour of the ruler was tantamount for survival. For a more thorough explanation of the human as a social animal and the strong need to belong to a tribe or group, read the engaging book, Homo Imitans, by Professor Leandro Herrero. Today, in many businesses and organizations, the behaviour of the leader has a profound impact on the behaviour of the entire organization.
Thus my experience watching Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas conduct Beethoven. It was obvious he was uninspired that evening and just going through the professional motions of conducting, and the orchestra playing was uninspiring and the audience received a rather lacklustre performance of a great and memorable symphony.
But the shadow of the leader concept cuts both ways and last evening I attended another BBC Proms event, this time with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski. The piece they played was not as lyrical or upbeat as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 I heard the other evening. In fact, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8 in C minor is long, brooding and dark in character.
But here’s the difference. The conductor was inspired! He was fully engaged with all his senses and emotions, and the players responded with a stunning performance that kept the audience on the edge of their seats and fully engaged. What could have been a long and laborious performance under a less inspiring conductor turned out to be thrilling. Again a perfect example of the shadow of the leader concept.
As I left the Royal Albert Hall at 10pm that evening and watched my daughter talking to the first violin and concert master at the stage door (one of her violin teachers), I couldn’t help thinking back on all the inspiring CEO’s I have had the privilege of working with as a consultant over the years. I could easily recall their faces and the positive, uplifting experience of being around them as they lead their companies through hard times and difficult competitive challenges, always with inspiring enthusiasm and a “can do” spirit. I remember Lewis Booth and the turnaround at Ford of Europe. I can still hear the high-pitched voice of Ian Walsh who led the turnaround at Lycoming Engine Company. And the infectious enthusiasm of David Novak as he grew Yum! Brands into a global powerhouse.
Positive examples of the “shadow of the leader” that are as inspiring today as they were years ago.
What shadow are you casting?
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!