Leadership Lesson from a Music Conductor

An Italian musician from Naples, Riccardo Muti is one of the world’s greatest conductors. At 73, as the Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Muti has accrued decades of world-renowned performances and recordings.

In a recent interview, he talked about the essence of being a conductor. What he expressed captures the very heart of leadership. I stopped to write down what he said, and I want to share that beautiful picture with you today.

Conductor directing symphony orchestra with performers on background, hands close-up.

Thanks to the influence of my parents, I had a musical upbringing. Over the years, I have attended hundreds of classical music concerts around the world. In all, conductors do the same thing, or so it seems. They take the stage. They gesticulate their batons. The musicians respond. One, two, three, four. They direct the tempo. They glance at their sheet music. They follow the notes on the pages. And voila! Music.

But there is more to the story. I have always known that there is an ethereal connection between the conductor and the musicians. More than sound. More than rhythm. More than dots on a page. Maestro Muti describes it beautifully. In his rugged Italian accent he said…

To conduct an orchestra means to be able to get from the musicians the best of their souls, of their feelings. That is what conducting is. Not jumping on the podium and making all kinds of gestures.. -Riccardo Muti

What we see from the outside are conductors encapsulating the music with their movements. Leaders bringing all the players together to accomplish the mission. But there is more to it than getting a job done. Just as great conducting is more than a one-two-three-four beat; great leadership is more than a come-go-build-sell formula. Twitter_logo_blue

For music to be heavenly, the conductor and the musician must connect at a deeper level. They must hear the whispers of each other’s souls. For the team’s vision to be captured, the leader must also connect with his people at a deeper level. They too must hear the whispers of one another’s souls.

Conducting an orchestra is so much more than the music at hand. It is about human creativity and passion congealing. It is a spiritual excursion into the depth of the human experience. So is leadership. Much more than the mission at hand, it is about people coming together for a meaningful journey.

Great leadership is a mutual invasion of our passion, vision, and intellect. Just as Ricardo Muti aims to do when he conducts world-renowned orchestras, our aim as leaders must be to get the best from our people’s souls. Twitter_logo_blue

Actionable Step: Ask yourself honestly today: Are you simply directing people on what they should do? Or are you inspiring them so that the very best comes out of their hearts?

Your Friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature

About me: I try to attend as many Fort Worth Symphony concerts as I can. I sit in Box Tier B on Sunday afternoons. If you are ever in town, come by and say hello.

For Further Reading:

The Moments We Must Stand Alone
Personal vs Professional

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