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Leadership in the USA.

I am about to publish “The New Leadership”, a Master Class for business managers confronting today’s crises. My friends ask me about leadership in our country today. The difficulty in answering is speaking truth whilst remaining apolitical. So my answer is to look at some of our greatest day in day out leaders – hidden in plain sight – the conductors of our wonderful orchestras. From New York, to Chicago, to San Francisco audiences thrill to the loved classis, to innovation and new writing and to the excitement of real time performance.

Delivering this excellence depends upon the conductor’s shared vision, the players’ understanding of their roles and responsibilities, and the mutual trust and team commitment they create with each other.

The conductor describes the vision for his players to share and to own. This interpretation is the plan. it underpins decisions about tempi, sound and ultimately every value and action – the pace of the first bars of Beethoven, the swoon of the strings in Brahms, the sound of a cor anglais in Mahler. 

The conductor manages the roles and responsibilities for each member of the orchestra – the entry of the violins, the surge of sound from the cellos, a revitalized call from the brass – a miracle of delegation carried out without apparent effort but which requires clarity and consistency of communication  and once again a shared rapport with the players. 

Perhaps the most significant leadership role for the maestro is to build trust bar by bar, day by day with his team. This allows a growing common language, efficient  and clear decision making and a consistent focus on the core points of the score and the interpretation of it. This can often reach the point where they could play without the conductor. The NBS Orchestra indeed did exactly that in their tribute to the death of Arturo Toscanini.

A mutually understood vision, clear and consistent delegation of roles and responsibilities and trust – now, given the available expertise of the players, we have the context for a performance of merit.

 It has not been possible to see any of this at the White House:

  • There has been no agreed vision of what success will look like, how this presidency should improve the nation, why we should share in and want to own the new performance.
  • There has been no understanding of roles and responsibilities clearly defined and delegated to build on the uniquely powerful expertise available to the White House and to create a cumulative body of understanding and growing clarity of achievement.
  • The last few months have destroyed any remnant of possible grown up and educated trust in the administration, in its figure head and in their collective operating ability.

Far from building on the opportunity for sharing a common vision and purpose, or for demonstrating their performance skills, the Corona-Virus and now Minneapolis have instead shown America a leadership unfit for purpose. When it came to it the conductor could deliver neither Beethoven, Brahms nor Mahler. He has to go.

Have a good day, James.