Thursday, February 17, 2011

Leadership, Power & Influence (Part 2): Bolero

One day in class we watched this video. It is, of course, Ravel's famous Bolero, performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta. Do indulge for 10 minutes in this amazing piece of musical talent and while listening try to answer the following questions:

  • Is the job of a conductor of an orchestra similar to that of a CEO?
  • What other similarities with the corporate world do you see?

Have you enjoyed it? Genius is difficult to hide even if you try very hard. But back to the questions...

It is quite understandable if many of you answered "yes" - after all, it is a common business metaphor and often we do talk about "orchestrating resources", "fine tuning key messages" and "carrying the baton". Nonetheless, a classical performance ambiance is characterized by such features as presence of a score, clear definition of roles, expectable audience, expert musicians, rehearsed show and you are expected to perform well.

What happens in the real world? The business space is riddled with uncertainty and ambiguity. The score is changing and most CEOs have to juggle multiple scores at any given point in time. While any deviation from the prescribed note (if noticed) will be an unforgivable mistake in an orchestra, grave failures are being tolerated in reality when it comes to large corporations. Competition is attacking you from all possible angles and frankly speaking often you do not know what to do next.

Ravel: BoléroSo why do we fall into the trap of finding similarities? Maybe it's because we are used to the fancy fairy tale of a clockwork working place. MBA students go through a plethora of cases and think that in their professional experience they will be capable enough to avoid mistakes and that they will not be dealing with complex problems. After a while you start believing yourself in living fantasies and hope - just like a symphonic orchestra. But when you leave the concert hall, the reality hits again, and no baton or even a magic wand will rid us of the uncertainty that makes our world unpredictable and, therefore, wonderful... just like Ravel's overtones.

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