Leadership Lessons from the Maestro

I had a fantastic learning opportunity this week. I attended a presentation by Roger Nierenberg. It really wasn’t a presentation – it was much more of an experience. Roger calls it The Music Paradigm. Here’s a quick overview...

Almost 20 years ago, Roger began using an orchestra to teach management and leadership principles. Although the metaphor is extremely powerful and the parallels striking, what makes this so much more than a presentation is the fact that the audience is literally sitting in the orchestra.
I took pages of notes during the 2-hour event. Here are a just few of the things I saw Roger do as the conductor that are a great reminder/challenge for me as a leader.

The conductor uses vivid language to share his vision. Roger demonstrated a rich vocabulary of words, phrases and metaphors to ensure his vision was clear (e.g. this should be charming not muscular; this is not the Super Bowl; don’t slow down the dance; etc.)

The conductor listens. Roger has spent decades refining his listening skills. It appeared as though he was listening with every fiber of his being. Listening forms the foundation for his actions.

The leader’s passion, energy and commitment were contagious. If the conductor didn’t care, I’m guessing the musicians wouldn't either. Roger’s high level of engagement seemed to draw out the best in everyone in the room.

The orchestra needs a score. This is similar to the business plan in most organizations. It outlines who will do what by when. The conductor looks for misalignment between the score and the actual performance and works passionately to eliminate it!

The conductor wanted everyone to understand the whole – not just their part. These may be the most challenging part of what I witnessed. Roger did this by using a variety of methods during the short rehearsal… He told a story about the music. He used descriptive language. He asked individual members and sections to play for the others. He asked members to listen to other instruments while they were playing. He wanted every member to understand the big picture.

I'll be studying my notes for a long time extracting the gems that Roger provided. I‘m also looking forward to reading Roger’s book, Maestro.
What are some of the unexpected places you’ve learned leadership lessons?

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11 years ago

You are becoming the Maestro of blogging. Good job Mark!


11 years ago

Thanks for your example!

Pace Sweatt

11 years ago

I really love the idea that "Listening forms the foundation of his actions." The metaphors are a great way to fortify Operators' thinking about Leadership and High Performing Teams! Looking forward to the "experience" of Roger's message at Seminar.
Thanks for sharing!

Joe Clark

10 years ago

First, I hope you are doing well! It's been a long time.
I'm very excited to have discovered your website and can't wait to explore all of the great leadership topics you've written about. I know I'm going to find lots to learn and apply.
I was going through some of your strategic planning posts as I'm starting that process with my team now and came across your reference to Roger Nierenberg. I watched his video and it reminded me of another video that I have used when teaching Leadership here at Colonial Life. It's a TED talk by Itay Talgam, who also talks about leardership by way of conductor's styles. You may have seen it before, but I wanted to pass it along in case you hadn't. Hope you enjoy.
Take care!


9 years ago

THanks, Joe! Please let me know if I can serve you in the future! Mark

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8 years ago

[…] illustration for this is from Roger Nierenberg. I’ve written about him before in my post, Lessons from the Maestro. If Roger asked you to sit behind the french horn section in an orchestra and then after the first […]


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