Indispensable Leadership Lessons from the Podium of an Ochestra

Dr. Relly Nadler: Welcome to Leadership Development News, Profiles and Practices of Top Performers. I’m Dr. Relly Nadler and we have Dr. Cathy Greenberg, my esteemed co-host is here. Between Cathy and I, we have helped thousands of leaders perform in the top 10%.

Cathy, welcome to the show.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Thank you, Relly. I am always honored to be here.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Let me say a word about Roger and let’s bring him on. Alright, Cathy?

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Yeah. I was just going to say that Roger and I originally met at Oxford University. We were both speakers and facilitators at the World Presidents Organization Leadership Program in London. It was a delight.

Roger is one of the most engaging, charismatic, and humorous conductors I have ever come across. He has Indispensable Leadership Lessons from the Podium of an Orchestra to share with us, today.

Maestro Roger Nierenberg made his New York conducting debut at Avery Fisher with the Pro Arte Chorale Orchestra.

He was soon invited to conduct operas in two successive seasons at the Mostly Mozart Festival at New York’s Lincoln Center. Thereafter followed long and successful tenures as Music Director of both the Sanford Symphony in Connecticut and the Jacksonville Symphony in Florida.

He has guest conducted at well over a dozen internationally and nationally known organizations. I’ll just name a few. The National Symphony, The Opera Theatre of St. Lewis, The Detroit Symphony, The St. Lewis Symphony, The Baltimore Symphony, The Indianapolis Symphony, The San Diego Symphony, and many other great American orchestras.

He is also well known, very well known, abroad. He is recorded with the London Philharmonic. And has conducted at both the Prague Spring Festival and the Beijing Festival.

He has collaborated with many of the most renowned soloists, artists, and composers of our time. He is just an amazing human.

During his tenure with the Jacksonville Symphony, the seeds actually were planted that would lead Maestro Nierenberg to a startling departure from what most would consider a conventional music career. Through his creation of something called the Music Paradigm, he has been able to share his engaging experiences with communities, businesses, civic leaders, and the folks that I mentioned. We were all enjoying him over in London.

He became curious about the challenges and opportunities that people face when they are dealing with rapid times of change and how we engage all of our people more quickly. He realized how crucial the issues of organizational development are and he powerfully brought those to light, not only within his orchestra but within his great, wonderful program called the Music Paradigm.

He has been written about in Fortune 500. He is an amazing human being. I cannot tell you more about him. You just need to listen to him. Many of the lessons that he has learned are presented in his book, Maestro – a Surprising Story about Leading by Listening. He was honored in 2009 as the best leadership book from eight hundred CEO reads.

We are delighted to have you on the show, today. Welcome, Maestro.

Roger Nierenberg: Hi. Thanks for inviting me.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: You’re welcome.

Dr. Relly Nadler: We are glad to have you. Cathy, I participated, I don’t know what conference it was but, you were the presenter and we were all in the audience with different parts of the orchestra and stuff. That was a while back but knowing that we as adults learn through experience; that was really fascinating.

So, thanks for doing this.

We wanted to ask you some of the questions that we are going to go through. I know some of the ones I’m interested in down the line are around direction or criticism. We are going to talk a little bit about management and leadership. We are going to talk about somehow musicians may judge a conductor.

These are all really good questions. What we want to start with, Roger is tell us a little bit about how you see emotional intelligence – as one of the themes we talk about, understanding yourself, managing yourself, the simple definition – as a conductor. Why is that important?

Then we will go through the other questions that we will zero in on.

Roger Nierenberg: Yeah. Well, emotional intelligence is enormously important because standing in front of an orchestra you have a team that is enormously invested in their work. First of all, they’ve sacrificed a lot to acquire those skills. They’ve reached a high level of expertise. They care a lot about their playing. You as the leader are charged with aligning all of them and charting a course that they’ll follow. They may not necessarily agree. They may have other ideas. They may have a resistance to being led which is the result of having been led by people/leaders who are not very enlightened.

So, emotional intelligence is really critical in stepping away from all the land mines that are potentially there. There are many ways that you can, without realizing it, insult them. Or, you can simply under-stimulate them in ways that they need and then they become rather uncooperative.

I think emotional intelligence is enormously important for leaders.

Dr. Relly Nadler: So, Roger, one of the things we were interested in is, why do you think conductors are so well situated to learn about leadership? The other piece of that that we were talking about in the break; so much of that is nonverbal of what you are picking up about your folks. But, so, really from a leadership standpoint and just being not only a maestro but a master of reading people when they are actually doing their art, doing their craft.

Roger Nierenberg: Well, music is a medium that translates behavior into results almost instantaneously. With most of the work that takes place, there is a gap between what you do and when the results finally come in. The gap could be an hour, or it could be a week, or it could be a month.

So, by the time the results come, it’s sometimes very ambiguous about what was the behavior that caused that. But in the case of music, there is no question about it because a direction is given, the behavior happens, and the result comes in. Therefore, it puts you in a position to really contemplate what was the effect of that behavior. And then, unlike most leaders, you have your workforce right in front of you. So, therefore, for those leaders who want to deny that they were responsible for what happened; that’s very difficult for a conductor because it all happened right, not only, in real-time but also in front of everyone.

So, therefore, the choices that we make, we come to see, are really important, to the extent that we can get disciplined about the way we lead. We can be more effective.

There is a wonderful feeling when you give a direction, or you offer a metaphor for what success would look like and you hit the bull’s eye; then it happens immediately.

So, you learn lessons very powerfully.

You can listen to the complete interview above by just clicking on the play button.

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