Five Leadership Pointers from a Conductor

Friday, December 13, 2013

Nierenberg conducts the Jacksonville Symphony during a session

Five Leadership Pointers from a Conductor

As a young conductor I was always amazed to witness how a great maestro could so quickly have such a transforming effect on an orchestra.  Within minutes the music would come to life with a new vibrancy and spirit.  It was like magic.  I could find no other explanation [...]

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Music As Inspiration

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

blog photo 13.11.12

Last week, I delivered a Music Paradigm session to a group of 140 financial services executives.  For 90 minutes they sat inside the orchestra.  Then for a half-hour we all discussed what they had experienced, and how they might put their learning to use.

Many people spoke about the magical quality of hearing live music [...]

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Bernstein Inspires Innovation

Thursday, August 1, 2013

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In today’s competitive business environment every company is looking to stimulate innovation. But it’s not easy, particularly for large, successful organizations where norms and conventions have taken root.

Even the symphony orchestra, which routinely plays the most thrilling masterpieces ever conceived, is still susceptible to boredom and tedium.  Indeed, without the guiding hand of an [...]

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Giving the work back to people

Sunday, May 19, 2013


What does a conductor do when the orchestra is simply not playing up to its capability?

The general public’s stereotype of a maestro’s behavior in this situation is based on Arturo Toscanini, whose temper tantrums on the podium during the 1950s were legendary.  Listen, if you dare, to his rant, which climaxes in his storming [...]

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Sharing a Compelling Vision

Friday, April 5, 2013

bach image

It’s rare that you get to see a spontaneous, black-and-white contrast between the effects of two different approaches to leadership. But it happened to me many years ago, and forever changed my ideas about the power of communicating vision to a workforce.

I had engaged a very good tenor to sing a beautiful Bach Cantata. [...]

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Ready to Rumble?

Thursday, March 28, 2013


A leader can sometimes be blind to what is obvious to everyone else.  I learned this more than 25 years ago when I guest-conducted one of the most famous American orchestras in the Rumble scene from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.

The Rumble is a violent piece, bursting with explosive, jagged syncopations. It’s tricky to [...]

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The oboist’s perspective

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Oboe image

At some point in every Music Paradigm session I ask one participant to come to the podium, stand in front of the orchestra and hold the baton in her hand. I then move her arm in such a way that the musicians can read the baton’s movements. For the participant it is an astonishing sensation: [...]

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Leadership Without Authority

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


How do you exercise leadership when you don’t have any authority over the people you’re supposed to lead? This is one of the most frequent challenges I hear about as I prepare to design Music Paradigm sessions. Every time I’m reminded of a story that Mark Kiefaber, the brilliant Lead Partner at Focus Leadership, LLC, [...]

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The Pope on working like an orchestra

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI

On his last day, Pope Benedict XVI was widely quoted as saying “May the College of Cardinals work like an orchestra, where diversity — an expression of the universal church — always works toward a higher and harmonious agreement.”

I am grateful to Pope Benedict for drawing the world’s attention to the symphony orchestra. I [...]

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Watching Daniele Gatti

Friday, March 1, 2013

Maestro Daniele Gatti

I recently attended the dress rehearsal of the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Parsifal. I had heard great things about the conductor, Daniele Gatti, and was excited to see and hear what he’d achieved.

The Met orchestra always sounds great. But this time it seemed to speak with one voice. It was as if every musician [...]

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