Heavy Lifting of Leadership Occurs Before Baton Is Raised

A week ago I cited a couple of posts Seth Godin had made about leadership. I and other readers were taken by his statement that leadership is a voluntary, risky and creative endeavor.

Since then he actually made a post about leadership that is directly related to the arts, using the what the public sees of an orchestra conductor vs. what the time and effort that under girds their appearance as a metaphor for all leadership.

(Just to note, I don’t know his characterization of what conductors do is completely accurate and exclusive to conductors within an organization, but trust the reader will get the overall meaning.)

Godin opens by saying the quality of a conductor is judged in one-two hour increments in which they wave a small stick and don’t make any noise. However, among the things great conductors do are:

Conductors set the agenda.

They amplify the hard work and esprit de corps of some, while working to damp down the skeptics within the organization.
They figure out which voices to focus on, when.
They have less power than it appears, and use their position to lead, not manage.

They transform a lot of ‘me’s’ into one ‘us’.

They stick with it for decades.

It’s a form of leadership that happens in private, but once in a while, we see it on stage.

In the interests of not copying and pasting 3/4 of a blog post, this is only an excerpt of his list. The gaps indicate where some of the omissions fall. Take a look at the full post if you are interested.

Like the posts I quoted last week, Godin’s view of leadership is one of generosity and humility that doesn’t seek the limelight or employ some form of duress to accomplish an objective. Though there also seems to be an implication that recognition is a natural reward for taking on the risk and work of being a leader. I am not sure that is entirely accurate in practice–especially when faced by people who employ or value the opposite characteristics.

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/)

I am currently the 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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