18 November 2014 0 Comments

Leadership Part 15

11-18-14 LII Blog

A leader takes charge of the big picture.

The Big Picture

Becoming sidetracked with minutiae distracts from focus on the goal.  Consider the conductor of a symphony orchestra who has before him the music of Beethoven and 95 talented musicians ready to play it.  The conductor has heard this same composition played by other orchestras a dozen times before, but he knows what he wants from this piece that will take it above and beyond previous interpretations.  He will have only one performance date and a few rehearsals leading up to this performance.  During this time he must communicate his vision to the musicians who will be waiting for his baton to drop and the first note to be played.  He cannot play each instrument himself and he must respect the talent that each musician brings to the table.

He starts by telling these talented artists, not how to play their respective instruments, but how he feels about the piece of music to be performed…about how he believes each section and soloist can bring his dream to life.

As the rehearsals proceed he calls to the attention of each section—the strings, the wood winds, percussion—how they can modify their performances in order to bring about the desired total effect.  Finally, at the last rehearsal he addresses his people with an upbeat message of how well he knows they will come together for the performance night.

On the evening of the concert the 95 individual professionals are in place.  The concert master has entered and the orchestra has tuned up.  The houselights dim.  The leader—the maestro—strides to the podium from the wings.  He bows, acknowledging the applause, glances at his music, lifts his baton, eyes the orchestra from side to side, lowers the baton and the music begins.

For the next 25 minutes all that he has felt about this piece—all that he has communicated during rehearsals—is communicated again through the passion of his expressions, movements and emotional contact with these 95 individuals who have come together as one.

The music ends.  His hands drop to his side.  The audience breaks into rousing and prolonged applause.  He knows that his vision and his focus have paid off.  He recognizes the entire orchestra and the specific soloists by asking them to stand in order to receive the applause of the audience.

A leader is able to visualize the big picture while carefully orchestrating all the pieces that go into its makeup.

Take Charge

If you are to be a leader you must be willing to take charge.  You must accept the responsibility that goes along with being in charge.  The ultimate success or failure of a project can always be attributed to the person in charge.  In success it is easy for the leader to bask in the glory of the accomplishments of the moment.  With failure the leader might direct the blame to subordinates.  But a real leader does neither.

Success may very well be the result of a “take charge” leader whose creativity and drive single-handedly created the success.  But, usually not.  Normally there are others who have contributed to the outcome.  This is the time for the “take charge” leader to recognize those people.  Self adulation is not an admirable trait even by someone who rightfully deserves all the praise.

Likewise, failure could have been the result of a subordinate whose non-sanctioned action brought the project down.  But not really, because—as Harry Truman said—the buck stops here.  The person in charge must always be willing to accept the blame because they had the opportunity to alter the course of events that led to the failure.

Humility in success—and in failure—is the sign of a leader.

Coming up…decisiveness and risk taking as a part of the leader’s Focus.

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