Thursday, July 4, 2013

When to Turn your Back on the Crowd

In order for a conductor to effectively lead the orchestra to musical beauty, he must first turn his back on the crowd. This concept seems so obvious, but how does it apply to leadership?

Before we look at leadership, let's ponder this thought a little bit longer. The conductor is responsible to directing every member of the ensemble; and therefore, communication is critical. At the tip of the baton, there is nothing that separates the output of 50 instrumentalists from the unifying force of the waving wand. 

Oblivious to the audience, the conductor and orchestra work in concert to create an auditory masterpiece. The conductor cannot turn to the crowd for approval between every beat or measure. He must wait until the selection has ended to find out if the performance has met their standard of excellence. 

Leaders are no different. In order to lead the ensemble of educators to excellence, he must turn his back on the audience of onlookers, supporters, critics and naysayers. He must lift his baton of influence and direct his team to unify their unique talents into a collective chorus of comraderie and collegiality.

So how do leaders know the steps to successfully turn their backs on the crowd?

Maestro's Entrance

At the very beginning of the concert, the leader must face the audience to be recognized and to acknowledge their presence. This sign of courtesy conveys that the audience is supportive and ready for the conductor to direct. Leaders never forget to establish a relationship with their stakeholders before beginning the difficult task of leading an organization.

Up to the Podium

Once the relationship with the audience is established, the conductor must now ascend to the podium, the position of leadership. When the conductor steps on the podium, the orchestra directs their attention and focus toward him and the conductor reciprocates by connecting his eyes and focus on them. The audience knows that their role is to observe and enjoy. Leaders must also build clear lines of communication where every member of the team engages together to begin the process of improvement.

Start the Music

The downbeat of the piece requires first a connection with the orchestra.  The orchestra and its leader must be on the same page through strong planning and communication. For organizations,  leaders and the members of the organization must also be connected by clear lines of communication.  Exemplary work cannot occur until the leader and organization are in harmony before the work of improvement commences.

Implement Excellence

Once the music begins, there's no stopping until the end. The conductor and orchestra work together to perform the piece to the best of their ability. The leader and the organization should be no different. By working in concert, the organization does its best to fulfill its mission and vision by adhering to its values and striving to reach its collective goals each and every day. At this point nothing comes between the vision and collective efforts of the team.

Concert Feedback

After every selection, the conductor drops his baton signaling the end of the piece. The audience knows that it is their time to give feedback. The level of applause indicates their degree of satisfaction. Likewise, the leader must periodically turn away from the work of the day to engage with the school community to gather insight and input. Without regular feedback from stakeholders, the leader has no idea if the community is in support of the things that are occurring in the organization.  The leader must turn away from the team to ensure that they audience is still in the building. 

Curtain Call

If the orchestra has fulfilled its responsibility of entertaining the crowd, they will be met an eruption of applause that will cause the conductor to repeatedly return to the stage for additional recognition. If the leader and the organization fail to fulfill their job and customer satisfaction is lacking, there will be no curtain call.  One thing is certain.  The audience will tell others about their experience.  If the performance was poor, everyone will know. If the performance was adequate, chances are that no one will hear about it.  To get a curtain call in your community, performances must be majestically memorable.  Performances of this caliber will create outside advocates that will tell the story of your team's excellence and the support that your group provides them.

Turning your back on the crowd is not a bad thing. It is an expectation that most people understand and respect. What makes a leader effective is that he knows when to turn toward the crowd. 

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