The music director is a Transformational Leader. Leaders get things done. Leaders know how things get done. Leaders influence others in the following ways:
The choice is yours. Which do you choose?
Music directors have a specific amount of time to influence people and produce a final result that is of the highest quality. Leaders are judged by results created. The results created by musical directors are immediately evident, so we are, as conductors, as good as our most recent result. Staying on top of our game as leaders in a music environment is dependent on consistency and clarity of purpose.
Leaders teach others how to behave, it’s more obvious and directly apparent with music than in organizational non-musical functions, however, there are many similarities.
This series started with the 5 Dumbest Things a Director Says to a Choir and includes the Top 5 Church Musician Leadership Skills and 5 Ways to Improve Your Annual Review.
You will notice some of the same themes in this column on how we as conductors and leaders inspire good or poor response from those whom we lead. Now we will reframe the leadership skills we know as choral conductors into skills that work in non-musical settings.
In my early years as an inexperienced choral conductor, I had the pleasure of being in a choral workshop with Lloyd Psautsch as clinician. He was very clear that many, if not most mistakes that directors criticize in their choral rehearsals are directed mistakes.
In fact, many of those mistakes are mistakes of interpretation that is subjective. Our actions as a conductor and person of influence impacts those whom we lead in many ways – sometimes in ways that we are not aware of or are willing to admit. Self awareness is a necessary component of leadership as well as the choral conductor.
In my graduate school work on a choral conducting degree, I had to view video recordings of my rehearsals, which was a very humbling experience. Sometimes the revelations were quite embarrassing. I was totally unaware that my movements were causing singers to perform poorly.
The same dynamic exists in non musical settings as well. Here are 5 things to observe in our behavior as a conductor that transfer to ways we influence committees, staff, and church members.
5 Ways a Leader Inspires Negative Results:
- Anxiety – Managing one’s self is a fundamental grounding for the leader or conductor. When we are anxious it spreads throughout the group. Tension in the body and especially in the throat causes poor vocal production at a minimum and causes singers to respond with less than their best. We want to be critical and blame the singers for poor vocal production, however we have communicated through our very demeanor a level of stress that we are not conscious of. In non musical settings, we show up as leader, peer, colleague, staff support for church leaders, or as participant in positive or negative ways. Self awareness is the key leadership tool. In his book,The Musicians’s Soul, James Jordan presents the idea that the conductor must be centered – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Showing up centered amend calm,allows the conductor as leader impact any group, musical, or otherwise, in a very positive way. Stay calm in the midst of anxiety and be a powerful presence.
- Triangles – Triangles exist. They are neither positive or negative. Be aware of their presence. There are also interlocking and connecting triangles. One example of a triangle could be: pastor – musician – committee chair. The committee chair might have an opinion that is different than the desire f the pastor. If the chairperson comes to you to complain, then that’s a triangle with one person seeking a power position. if you adopt the position of the chair, the triangle now becomes dangerous. You can’t take this power position and win. Certainly this will damage your relationship with your pastor. One you determine that the other person has a potential conflict, it is important to connect those two slides to the triangle. When you function at a higher level as leader, you influence others to function up as well. In the choral rehearsal, addressing the attitude or behavior issues by talking around them, is creating a form of a triangle for those who get what or who you are talking about. They feel uncomfortable and the person that you need to hear the message might be clueless. If they interact independently, then you are giving up your authority as director and they are in conflict as outside parts of this triangle. Be direct. Be specific. Check for understanding. Ask for a commitment .
- Over functioning - There is rarely enough time for preparing for concerts or preparing for worship, so we might opt for less than best practices in rehearsal rather than take time to use out best skills. This might lead us to over function. One example might be telling singers to sing what is written on the page in front of them, such as telling them to observe the subito piano or no breath marking. If we tell then do do what they already see, this is making them dependent on the director to “spoon feed” them the basics rather than asking them to observe and respond to what is on the page in front of them. The director’s responsibility is to shape the music and facilitate the learning while the singer’s responsibility is to sing what is on the page. When we assign tasks to members of committees, it is important to refrain from dictating the process and micromanaging the work. Recruit the best people. Provide a clear vision so what you want as a result. And let them do the work. Provide information and support as needed.
- Modeling - What they see is what you get says Rodney Eichenberger. Your direction inspires musical excellence. You can also encourage apathy. The same dynamic is true in committee functioning. If we show up prepared, enthusiastic, punctual, and engaged, we encourage and inspire the same from participants. Use the same standard in preparing meetings that you sue in preparing rehearsals. Define the result you want, and then define the pathway to that result. Preparation on your part encourages results on their part. You model high performance and evoke the same in others.
- Avoidance – We would never consider that not addressing a wrong note is good practice. In fact, notes learned wrong are very difficult to fix. Avoiding correction is wrong in conducting. It’s not considered bad manners to correct mistakes, poor posture, lack of expression, and other issues that need fixing. We do, however, sometimes avoid addressing the other behaviors such as side conversations, texting, and not marking the music. General comments get general attention. If you avoid dealing directly with the problem with the problem maker, it will only get worse. In meetings the same is true. Deal promptly and directly with those same behavior issues. This will build your stature with those wanting results and respect for your leadership skill in those who are out of line. It is important to address the behavior and not attack the person. Assertive and not passive or passive-aggressive is the leadership personality. Avoiding the conflict only makes it worse over time. It’s like bad notes – they don’t go away.
These are all skills and behaviors that you already know. Transfer the skills of the musical conductor into non musical situations. The musical conductor is the transformational leader – always.
Enjoy your journey.
Grace and Peace to you in your duty and delight as a Christian leader.
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