Baton Leadership-Lessons From LA Philharmonic Conductor Dudamel


Imagine a crusty group of seasoned professionals standing, applauding and cheering a 28 year-old leader who has turned a same-old-same-old product into something fresh and exciting!  This does NOT happen—particularly when the professionals are members of the Israel Philharmonic.  But under the baton of young Maestro Gustavo Dudamel, orchestra members did just that. Now, Southern California music lovers are witnessing the same magic of a man who started as a tot playing in El Sistema, the publicly- funded program for children in Venezuela.  Talk about team work. Talk about taking an old product like Beethoven’s Fifth and turning it into something that has young and old talking.  (In how many ways can we say “Detroit - get a clue!”) In a recent interview, Dudamel’s leadership genius jumped off the page as something that leaders in all industries can practice. The secret: love the music and the musicians who play it! Dudamel makes every player a star, asking them to play their best and then—just a little more and still more.  He is a persistent and disciplined communicator. This means he delivers the same message, evoking over and over again the possibility of amazing outcomes and a belief in the individual strength of each player that only become better when joined with others. He uses the power of words to express the results he seeks. It’s not the language of bottom line and shareholder return, but rather words that turn a symphony into human terms: blood, meat, happiness, magic.  Every player can sense an emotional component to the end result.  Imagine what would happen if leaders could translate a product or a service into something that resonates emotionally with team members. I can make a case for software technicians as surely as a team of surgical nurses. According to close observers, Dudamel’s eyes radiate joy and energy when working with the orchestra. He admits that having fun with the “product” and the players is what allows him to create a musical experience that brings the “buyers” of the product and the “makers” of the product to their feet. Fun. Energy. Joy.  These aren’t words that one normally associates with work. Results without joy, fun (however one defines it) and energy create a disengaged workforce and a perfunctory leadership style. In a competitive arena, where every orchestra can select the same product, imagine the great difference a leader makes.  It’s why lines have formed to buy tickets for Dudamel’s first concert in October in Los Angeles. What would happen when lines formed to buy a company’s product or service because the leader’s behavior showed the world that he loved the “music” and the “musicians” who made it? Let the trumpets swell on that final note!

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