Leadership as a Moving Experience
Peter F. Drucker, acknowledged guru in management practice, and founder of the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, coined the insightful phrase, “managing by walking around.” In fact, you can’t manage what you can’t see, and in the profession of music ministry leadership one cannot benefit more from such an assiduous practice.
“Walking around” in this context means to gather valuable information by first-hand observation, to see our colleagues working in real time, to watch our singers and players interact, to listen to ambient activity, and engage extemporaneously with members. To accomplish this we need to arrive early, engage consistently and be the one who locks the doors at the end of the day. It is virtually impossible to truly know what is going on inside our organization without living and being present inside our organization. All other information received is heresay, rumor, opinion, or complaining, and none such secondary-source information is what we need to manage our work effectively and efficiently. Nothing can replace being present and “walking around.”
In a church this means arriving significantly early to sit and to be available for conversation with fellow staff members, to listen and collect feedback from people, even visitors, about their perceptions. This means staying around after events. Walking around before and after scheduled activities pay tremendous dividends.
Although this may be seen as a “business” practice, not specifically intended for cministry application, it is clearly useful to the music director. If one carefully observes the relationship between musicians and conductors one may conclude as I do that a difference exists between choral and instrumental idioms.
The choral relationship between singer and conductor is very personal. The singer is attracted to a conductor for high-touch reasons: charisma, respect, previous connection through honor choirs and other such interaction, popular reputation, and the like. Singers want, no, expect a personal relationship with their conductor. We all know of one or more anecdotes where the singer/conductor relationship went south due to hurt feelings; the singer felt betrayed by a perceived friendship.
The instrumental relationship is very different. There is generally much less expectation for friendship. The less interpersonal baggage the better. Instrumentalists want to play their parts with only a director/conductor’s inspiration, however a singer feels inspiration is essential in order to sing their parts. This may seem like a small difference, however in fact it is an extreme paradigm shift. Again, singers thrive on relationship while instrumentalists ask for little of it other than musical inspiration.
Herein lies the importance of “walking around” within the choral organization. Getting to know our singers, all people affiliated with our organization’s goals and objectives, is essential to the success of our leadership. Without the personal attention singers feel disconnected from the process and will seek out needed attention elsewhere. Peter Drucker has also written that, “If you want to be a leader, you have to have followers.” “Managing by walking around” is one strategy to build leadership.
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