8 Lessons Leaders Should Take from a Symphony Conductor

Photo courtesy of Rob Swystun on Flickr


I love good music, and as a musician myself (I taught classical and flamenco guitar for several years), I have a deep respect and admiration for true musical talent and ability. I have been privileged to enjoy countless excellent concerts and symphonies over the years, and I am always so fascinated by all that goes into pulling off the perfect performance.


In a recent podcast on his blog, best-selling author and speaker Michael Hyatt shared about his experience at a performance of the Nashville Symphony, led by world-renowned conductor Hugh Wolff. Hyatt explained that as he sat there enjoying the awesome performance, he began making connections between conducting an orchestra and leading a team. As soon as Hyatt said that, I immediately began to see the correlation. I believe his list of 8 Leadership Lessons from a Symphony Conductor is spot on! Here they are:


  • Lesson #1: Start with a plan.
    • Conductors start with a musical score and an idea of how they want it to sound, then they work with the players to make it a reality. As a leader, you must start with a vision of what it is you’re setting out to achieve. You must have clarity about where you’re trying to take your team. “Vision is what you set out to achieve. Strategy is how you intend to achieve it. If you have a clear, compelling vision, the right strategy will show up.
  • Lesson #2: Recruit the best players.
    • The best musicians want to work with the best conductors, and vice versa. The same is true in business – people are attracted to the best leaders and the best organizations. “As a leader, you have to attract, recruit, train, and develop the very best people you can find.”
  • Lesson #3: Be visible, so everyone can see you.
    • A conductor will only be effective if the orchestra can see him. Similarly, a leader must be visible and accessible to his or her team. You can’t keep your organization in alignment if you hide in your office. “You have to be present with people, face to face, if you’re going to lead well.”
  • Lesson #4: Lead with your heart.
    • Great conductors don’t merely go through the motions, they are truly passionate! They’re swept up in the music; “They don’t just play with their heads; they play with their hearts. You can read it on their faces, and you can sense it in their movements. They are fully present, and they are playing full out.” So it should be in leadership.
  • Lesson #5: Delegate and focus on what only you can do.
    • The conductor doesn’t do everything… he stays off the stage until it’s time for him to do what only he can do, which is to lead the orchestra.” As a leader, learning to effectively delegate is critical! Without the ability to delegate, your leadership will be “stuck” indefinitely.
  • Lesson #6: Be aware of your gestures and their impact.
    • Obviously a conductor cannot afford to make a careless gesture. As a leader you too have to be conscious of your nonverbal communication. Gestures and facial expressions have a huge impact. People interpret these cues whether you realize you’re sending them or not, so be aware of them and be intentional with them! Make sure the wrong body language or facial expression doesn’t undermine what you’re really intending to communicate.
  • Lesson #7: Keep your back to the audience.
    • “Conductors are aware of the audience, but their focus is on the players and their performance.” As a leader you can’t ignore your market, but in order to create an excellent product or service, your primary focus must be it and the team you’re creating it with.
  • Lesson #8: Share the spotlight.
    • The conductor always shares the glory with the orchestra. “If the conductor walks to the stage with only his baton, how much music can he produce without the orchestra? None. Absolutely none. He needs the orchestra. He can’t do it without them. This is the personification of a team effort.


To listen to Michael Hyatt’s full podcast, please click here.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
no comments
Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

I am a leader, speaker, and author who is passionate about Leadership Excellence and Achieiving Greater Success. I am the author of the books Be An Inspirational Leader(2016) and Presidential Leadership (2013), and deliver keynote presentations on those topics and several others.

Featured posts


“Dan Nielsen is a gifted facilitator and inspiring presenter. He truly has a passion for leadership and for getting to the heart of the matter. He knows what it takes to motivate both individuals and groups and genuinely leads by the example he sets.”

Sharla K JonesVP, HR Learning & Development Manager, PlainsCapital Bank


“Dan is the ultimate professional. He has exceptional relationship development and group facilitation skills. He is a keen observer and is able to offer accurate insights into business relationships.”

- Brenda Moon, Vice President Client Executive, MedAssets


“Dan is a forward thinking leader who is optimistic, collaborative and open to change. He is trusted and respected by colleagues. His speaking style is enthusiastic, confident and engaging. You know that a successful outcome will be delivered when Dan is leading the way.”

- Rick Provencher, Director Member Solutions, Amerinet


“Dan is a great communicator and inspirational speaker. His message is positive and always very motivating. I recommend Dan to help any organization optimize their employees' potential.”

- John Penhollow, Director of Corporate Accounts, Medical Action Industriesi


“Dan is a gifted leader who has the extraordinary ability to develop a strategic vision and mobilize an organization to achieve it. He operates with great integrity and character. Dan completely understands business dynamics and utilizes that understanding to optimize exceptional leadership.”

- Stacy Shillan, IV Infusion & Respiratory Services, Walgreens


“Dan has a passion for leadership and for providing the tools for others to become effective, insightful leaders.”

- Linda DeWolf, Founder, Travel Well


More Testimonials>>