Inspired !


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’.

MASADSC_3800The 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 same stylegroup, 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.

JurowskiBut 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 Shadow-8-18-14-08help 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

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 or
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2 Responses to Inspired !

  1. Hopefully, an authentic, trusting and supportive one… 🙂


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