Leadership By Eyebrow

Apropos my Inside the Arts co-denizen Bill Eddins post about what it takes to be a good conductor, is the TED video with Itay Talgam talking about the conducting styles of six great 20th century conductors.

Talgam approaches the leadership styles of different conductors from the apparently stifling style of Riccardo Muti to the comparatively free flowing style of Herbert von Karajan. According to Talgam, Muti was asked to resign from his position at La Scala because he wasn’t allowing the musicians any room in the performance. Karajan was apparently quoted as saying the worst thing he can do is give his musicians specific direction. Both approaches put a lot of pressure on the musicians to perform well.

Talgam contrasts that with the way Carlos Kleiber (in some very humorous clips) and Leonard Bernstein (conducting only with his head) balance exerting control with loosing the reins and giving the musicians their head, providing only minimal feedback.

Obviously, there is a lesson in all this about balance in organizational leadership. It would be the great arts administrator indeed who could run his/her organization just by wiggling their eyebrows like Bernstein.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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