This is tricky. I watched Itay Talgam's wonderful TedTalk on the way to a day of meetings at work. Lead like the great conductors is a fine, inspiring talk that Talgam has honed to perfection. A joy to watch, a joy to listen to, a joy to learn from. His main point is that the great conductors of great orchestras have an individual style that enables them to get what they want from the orchestra. Talgam, a conductor himself, contrasts the very different approaches of Riccardo Muti -- who conducts "so you know what to do and the sanction if you don’t" -- with Leonard Bernstein. Ethan Zuckerman responded like this:

Talgam "closes with a video in which Bernstein conducts a long, exciting passage without moving his arms at all. It's clear that every player in the orchestra is watching the maestro closely, and that his control comes entirely from his expression, an occasional nod, a slight movement of the eyes or the mouth. It's extraordinary ... and Talgam has done an extraordinary job of showing us a beautiful and subtle lesson in leadership.

But has he? I mean, he certainly had shown us beautiful and subtle leadership. But was it a lesson? Of course in 20 minutes it probably isn't possible actually to instruct. I'm sure Talgam does that on the longer courses he offers to big organizations. Nevertheless, I was amazed that at no point in the talk did Talgam mention the skill of the musicians who can respond to Bernstein's pursed lips. Nor was there a word about how Bernstein, or Muti, or Richard Strauss, got to be that way.

As a metaphor for leadership, yeah, great. As an insight into how to do a Music Man on River City, not so much. 1


  1. Yeah, yeah, I know that was a con; you know what I'm searching for.  

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