When Gravity is no more …

A few days ago I wrote about our discussion on leadership with David Weinberger and Itay Talgam. The discussion is part of the initiative DNAdigital, which was launched last summer to foster the dialogue between CEOs and digital natives in order to achieve “better ways of working together”.

You can follow the discussion here.

Experts like David and Itay are brought in to “provoke” with statements. While David was setting up a frameset for leadership in a social media world in which “leaders” only make decisions if the crowd fails. Itay provides us with an insight view of a musician. What both of them share and what seems to be a very crucial point is: provide space and room for those who are not leading and by doing so, YOU as a leader achieve much better results!

Here are Itay’s thoughts on leadership. I would title it: When gravity is no more leadership has reached its highest high!

“Think about a Dixie band in full swing, improvising simultaneously in what is a chaotic, yet clearly organized, synergetic, happy cooperation. Why can’t every musical performance be like that? Why can’t any work be like that? Why isn’t life itself like that, always? Well, the answer, to my mind, is that should be. Yet it isn’t very often the case. The reason is that balance between the all essential structure – achieved in the music by prior agreements as to the form, style, key (to name just a few) – and the no less essential element of indeterminate, free space for things to happen in ways unanticipated – that balance is not easy to achieve.

Some musical groups tend to be one sided in their behaviors: If you play ‘Free Jazz’ you make a point of disregarding structure. If you play in a ‘Marching band’ you look to minimize all uncertainties. Yet most organizations do struggle with the issue, using a variety of often changing mixes of order and disorder.

Symphony orchestras are unique among musical ensembles worldwide in their size (up to about 130 players), inner diversity of instruments and professions, and the level of complexity of the music they can perform (that is not to suggest that symphonic music is in any way necessarily ‘better’ than other musics). Therefore it is hardly surprising that the ‘Maestro’ – great conductor and often dictator – stood for many years at the helm of this body, claiming and universally regarded as having complete control over the exact execution of what is entirely his (never her) artistic vision.

Surprisingly, this model of leadership still exists, and is costing many young musicians the joy of playing in orchestras, and sometimes even their love of music itself. Very few orchestras (the ‘Orpheus’ chamber orchestra of New-York being a famous example) chose to work without conductors at all – filling the void in leadership with complex, often time-consuming procedures of inner negotiations and consensus building. The players of these orchestras seem happy, creative, and many times exhausted. Even then, players will admit that a great conductor – or a great soloist performing with them – could bring more value into the performance. What would that something be? I think it has to do with the word ‘Great’ having a new meaning – quite different from the greatness of leaders of past time.

A great contemporary conductor – let’s call her or him a 2.0 conductor – will balance structure and freedom through creating controlled processes, shared with the skilled musicians-players (the native musical/digital) through the understanding of the logic behind them. He or she would actively create spaces for other musicians–players to fill, and share the emerging experiences both inwardly – with the musicians involved – and with his other partners in the orchestra, and at the same time with the audience. The great conductor will constantly identify and use GAPS, or even create gaps in the process of rehearsing and studying and performing. Gaps in meaning, interpretation, and gaps in process, control, are all opportunities for creative thinking and sharing. The great conductor will keep her virtuoso players at peak level of individual creativity through constant challenge and open space, letting them to be engaged in all sorts of interactions, while constantly creating a strong center of gravitation. If he or she is truly lucky, that force gravitation will be love: the love of music, the love of making music together.

Just like in Dixie bands.”

What do you think?

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