The HOW Institute for Society hosted on December 6, 2022 in New York a one-day, in-person summit bringing together diverse leaders from varied fields—including business, government, education, non-profits, the military, religion, sports, media and entertainment—to stimulate and inspire fresh thinking and concerted actions to help answer the most vital questions we face as a society.
I’ve been asked to speak about “the CONNECTION between music and leadership”. But first, I’d like to amend this title to read: “3 Lessons leadership can LEARN from music”. Now let me explain why.
I might be a classical music conductor, but I am also a product of my era: so naturally, I googled “what makes good…” and then either added “music” or “leadership”. Here’s what I found:
“What makes good music” results included:
- creating REACTIONS and EMOTIONS
- Is SOCIABLE, UNITES people
- My personal favorite: music “Manifests HUMAN EXCELLENCE” (amherst.edu)
When I googled “What makes good leadership”, I found:
- a whole host of entries describing how to BE a good LEADER.
- Problem: the results talk don’t talk about the ART of LEADERSHIP, but the EGO DOING the LEADERSHIP.
Unsatisfied with the results, I then googled "definition of Leadership”. What I found was even more perplexing:
- Forbes: “a PROCESS of social INFLUENCE”…
- Emeritus: “taking RISKS and CHALLENGING status quo”
- Tech target: “ability of an INDIVIDUAL to INFLUENCE followers”
- Cringeworthy, from HBR: “ACCOMPLISHMENT of a goal through direction of HUMAN ASSISTANTS.”
These attempts at defining Leadership are incomplete and therefore fail. All of them lack the most important element of Leadership, namely:
LEADERSHIP in its broadest and most noble sense is about one thing:
Google has cast a very unflattering light on our collective understanding of “good leadership” and the definition of leadership itself. Since “good music Manifests HUMAN EXCELLENCE” (!), music can come to leadership’s rescue in order to restore balance between empowering the individual and uniting humans.
What can we learn from music to infuse our leadership with humanity?
1. Take the EGO out of “what makes good LEADERSHIP”. Don’t worry about being a better leader. Concentrate on understanding the ART of LEADERSHIP.
2. Cultivate the WHY of what you do. Let HUMANS, not numbers or results, be at the core of your Leadership.
3. Dare to ANALOG your Leadership. Leadership is not something you put on and take off, like a suit. Live it fully, uninterrupted and continually. Like music, Leadership can become a Way, a TAO; a state of being in which to navigate the world.