Leadership / Management

Leadership lessons from the maestro, Ben Zander

Imagine 300 chartered accountants and CPAs standing and singing -- no, more like shouting -- Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, "Ode to Joy," in German!

That was exactly how Benjamin Zander closed the 2014 Collins Barrow National Partners' Conference in Boston.

They were inspired by Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, teacher, speaker, and best-selling author of The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life.

He was there to talk about leadership and learning. He ended up talking about vision and possibility and how we all can make the world a better place.

He started with a profound statement about his role as the conductor of an orchestra. [plugin:quote]The conductor of an orchestra doesn't make a sound. He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful. And so his job is to awaken possibility in others. - Ben Zander[/plugin]

He added that leadership is changing rather dramatically as we experience the decline of the old command-and-control hierarchies that are inadequate for today's world (reminds me of the "shift change"). He drew a series of downward spirals on a flip chart, a world of pessimism and negativity, a world of win-lose. On a second flip chart, he drew a circle with arrows pointing outward, this is the world of radiating possibilities, positivity, win-win, the world of human potential.

His talk was full of great inspiration and stories of his 75 years of experience. He ended with three keys to success:

  1. It's all invented: Everyday we wake up to a world that we can shape.The sooner we realize this, the better.
  2. Standing in possibility: Just like his flip charts on the stage, will the downward spiral enroll you, or will you enroll others in the world of possibility?
  3. Rule No. 6: This is the rule that says, "Don't take yourself too seriously." As for the other rules, there aren't any!

Imagine if we all learned how to stop the downward spirals from sucking us into their paralyzing forces and move to a place of possibility and opportunities?

Ben offered up a new way to think about leadership. He said the new leader can distunguish the downward spiral and has the capacity to move themselves and others to a place of radiating possibility.

After seeing 300 accountants singing "Ode to Joy," I know it's possible to inspire others and open up the world of radiating possibility, even for us accountants!

Watch Ben Zander's TED talk here.