Leadership Lessons from a Maestro

Friend of VeraSage, Steve Orleow, sent me a link to a three-part series featuring Maestro Itay Talgam. Over the course of 90 minutes, the famous conductor compares and contrasts several other conductor’s management styles. It is quite interesting to listen to Talgam’s insights as well as those of the participants in this session. Presumably, they are not music experts, so it is most interesting to see that even an “untrained” ear can pick up on what is going on from a leadership standpoint.

Here are the notes that I made while watching. They are not meant as complete thoughts, but only to assist my thinking. Notice how they can all be applied to leadership at a professional knowledge firm.

  • What makes harmony possible? Harmony can only be two people but still requires lots of effort.
  • Before a concert, each individual must prepare alone and then, in a split second, when the conductor indicates go from chaos to organization. A naive conductor might think it is because of them.
  • The audience makes the performance.
  • Interpretation is one role of the conductor. A piece that is frequently played is often harder to interpret then one that is infrequently played.
  • One conductor called the orchestra 110 minds not instruments. Only one person sees the light or is he the central enabler. A musician said, “we want someone to consolidate our individual thinking.”
  • Orchestra without conductor. “Without a conductor there is no one to blame.” Rotational leadership systems.
  • Burnout among players is very common.
  • Moody (1st Conductor) conducts so there are no mistakes but there are “wrong mistakes” which lead to creativity. To him the podium is an island of solitude.
  • Without order, nothing can exist; without chaos, nothing can grow.
  • For Kliber (sic, another conductor), the music came through him rather than from him. He creates such strong forces that he holds the orchestra together. However, when the soloist plays, he clearly relinquishes control.
  • Strauss (conductor) – please no interpretation, just play by the book. “Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them.” Worst thing I can do is give a strong downbeat. He gives them responsibility but no authority.

N.B. I apologize if I have misspelled any names above.


  1. Ed, Your post reminds me of a great book by another maestro, Benjamin Zander of the Boston Philharmonic who wrote an inspiring and practical business book, The Art of Possibility. I see many connections as he talks about Passion, Leading from any chair. I particulary like Rule # 6 which is to never take yourself too seriously.

    Aren’t we really all working with “musicians” – talented individuals that bring their “gifts” to work everyday? and if you happen to be the managing partner or CEO, aren’t you more like a conductor – interpreting the music and asking your orchestra to play their best for the audience (your customners). The magic happens when they all play in harmony…

    great post!

    Thanks to Ron for his performance at our Maryland Business & Accounting EXPO – he did his ususal thought provoking pieces and stretched some minds and encouraged more prople to think with him – exactly what we hoped for.

  2. Thank you Tom, for inviting me to speak at your Expo. I had a great time, and my Dad thanks you again for the baseball tickets! He loved the stadium.

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