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How’re you doin’

Assessing leadership effectiveness by looking at those being led.

I’ve played in orchestras since before I was a teenager, and it’s been a main source of enjoyment over the years.  I’ve had the privilege of being the leader of several orchestras and playing in some awesome concert halls too, and I still play in my local symphony orchestra when I get the time.  

I recall some major milestones in my orchestral journey: I remember being appointed as the leader of my local youth orchestra; I definitely remember the day when I joined a major national youth orchestra since I was right at the back of over 30 violins when I experienced the first play-through of Beethoven’s iconic 5th symphony; I have experienced the challenge and resultant reward of playing Dvorak’s 2nd symphony without missing a single note throughout.  One of the main things I have learned over the years has to do with the quality, passion and skill of the conductor.

As a concertgoer we all see the conductor standing right there at the front of the sea of musicians waving his baton around, but what does he actually do?  Well, the answer is that it’s something that the audience at a concert will rarely if ever see, but it has a massive impact on the performance of the orchestra.

“All leaders have two common characteristics: first they are going somewhere; second, they are able to persuade other people to go with them.”

~ John Maxwell

I would say that watching a rehearsal is something that every aspiring leader would derive great value from, through seeing how a great conductor brings the best out of his orchestra.  Great conductors I have worked under know the music we are going to play intimately, they know the background and the influences of the composer, and they have a really evident understanding of what the composer was trying to achieve with his composition.

They also have a really effective way of sharing that passion, understanding and feel with the members of the orchestra so that they perform the piece to the best of their personal and combined ability.  It’s a real pleasure and delight to see, and even more rewarding to be a part of the result.  A great conductor connects with the members of the orchestra in such a way that the overall performance is significantly improved over that obtained from a collection of solo performers.

“The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers.”

~ Max Depree

It’s evident in the performance of an orchestra, and it works a similar way in the leadership of any venture or organisation.  It is earned, not yearned; it is felt, not tell’t, it is caught not taught.  The loyalty of those being led is based not on position, but on permission and performance, in the pursuit of a promise.

At the heart of really effective leadership is an ability to help people to discover an inspiration from within themselves for the work they are engaged in delivering.  For this people need to know that their job matters, that what they are doing has meaning to someone. 

In Leadership Gold, John Maxwell suggests we can explore four questions to as when looking at our followers, and these are:

Clarence Francis said: “You can buy a man’s time; you can buy his physical presence at a given place; you can even buy a measured number of his skilled muscular motions per hour.  But you cannot buy enthusiasm … you cannot buy loyalty … you cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds and souls.  You must earn these.”  Look behind you, is there anyone following you?

We’ve probably all heard the saying that “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.  In a similar way, a leader can’t make people change; all she can do is to provide an environment where change is more likely to happen.  In order to see change and growth, we can’t make that happen to those around us, we can’t force people to grow.  But we can make sure that the environment they are in is healthy, and when that’s in place then the inevitable will happen: healthy things grow.

When my garden was parched due to a particularly hot, dry summer this year the grass looked as if it had all withered and died off.  However, when the summer drew to a close and we started to have some rain, the grass recovered and is growing once again – my garden is green, and the grass is growing simply because the environment has become healthy.  Do we see signs of growth?

Before we can determine whether people are succeeding we need to determine how to measure success.  People need to be able to gauge their own progress and their level of contribution for themselves, not simply based on the possibly misinformed ideas or opinions of those around them.  

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.