Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has been practicing Holacracy for decades

In the rapidly changing, more complex, volatile and unpredictable work environment there is a constant influx of new trends in the leadership development, some disappearing as mere fads, other may have a potential to stay longer. One of the new trends predicted to grow in 2015, as documented in the report from the Centre for Creative Leadership titled Future Trends in Leadership Development – is the “collective leadership”. Similar but more specific organizational governance systems are Holacracy or Sociocracy. In this report its authors write:
“Leadership development has come to a point of being too individually focused and elitist. There is a transition occurring from the old paradigm in which leadership resided in a person or role, to a new one in which leadership is a collective process that is spread throughout networks of people. The question will change from, “Who are the leaders?” to “What conditions do we need for leadership to flourish in the network?””

Interestingly enough, this approach has been used  in the music world for decades. If you have a better look at the attached photo (above), you will realize, that there is something missing – the conductor. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has been “conductor-less” for many years since it has started in 1972 – very successful and flourishing. And beside the fact that they play exceptionally without a conductor, the orchestra promotes and teaches their innovative approach to organizations all over the world.

The Orpheus process ‘No Conductor, Many Leaders’, has been thoroughly described by the former executive director of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in his book Leadership Ensemble. Here he analyzes the Eight Orpheus Principles:
1. Put Power in the Hands of the People Doing the Work
2. Encourage Individual Responsibility for Product and Quality
3. Create Clarity of Roles
4. Share and Rotate Leadership
5. Foster Horizontal Teamwork
6. Learn to Listen, Learn to Talk
7. Seek Consensus
8. Dedicate Passionately to Your Mission

The late Harvard professor J.Richard Hackman in his foreword to this book compares watching an Orpheus rehearsal to ‘watching democracy in action’. He writes:
“The Experience of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra raises a strikingly different possibility. Rather than relying on a charismatic, visionary leaders who both calls the shots and engages members’ motivation, might it be possible for all member to share responsibility fore leadership, and for their differences and disagreements to be sources of creativity rather than something that should be suppressed in the interest of uniformity and social harmony?”

Leadership as a natural process

BBC News published an interesting article How to conduct your staff, where the business correspondent Peter Day describes his experience at the recent London (UK) concert of the Royal Concertgebuw Orchestra from Amsterdam, with Mariss Jansons conducting. The article greatly summarizes in non-musical language, how current successful conductor (and leader) works. The autocratic, dictatorial and stardom-building approach of a conductor is mostly a thing of the past. The opposite is now a way to success, as the article describes Mr. Jansons’ role “it was a man among equals, enabling the ensemble to flower, joining their efforts to his to evoke the spirit of the music … to realize the possibilities of the ensemble … .”
I like parts of the article, where the author ties his experience with the business world: “… in Mr Jasnons’ enabling rather than autocratic style of leadership there were some real lessons for business people who look to conducting to show them how to run an organization. … How much the bosses and managers of other organizations and companies could learn from that community of purpose.”
The conductor himself describes his role: “It my job, to find out the orchestra’s qualities and preserve them. Then, if through a natural process, my own individuality adds something – and theirs to me – then it will be fine.”

Our company Artistic Interventions Inc. offers similar experience to clients in our MusicTouch workshops, where participants not only ‘peek’ over a shoulder of a conductor, but are facing him together with the rest of the orchestra and have an opportunity to witness and listen the process when music is almost invented in front of them.

When Orchestra Plays Mindfully

An interesting interview with the renowned Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer on mindfulness, innovativeness and authenticity. Prof. Langer characterized mindfulness as the simple process of noticing new things. Noticing new things keeps us in the present, makes us sensitive to context and perspective and helps us being engaged … and authentic.
She described a research, where they had an orchestra playing their piece mindfully and also mindlessly. The result was that “when the pieces are played mindfully, the symphonic orchestra members not only enjoy what they are doing, but that mindfulness seems to leave its imprint on the product they produce. … So that you seem more attractive to other people, you are feeling better and more engaged and enjoying your work and the thing you are doing ends up prospering. So it is win-win-win!”

Our clients have an opportunity to experience the same impact on the final result/product, when they attend our MusicTouch workshop.

You can watch the interview here.

TED talk

Trusting the Ensemble

“Through music making can come deep levels of fundamental life-giving trust” says conductor Charles Hazlewood in his TED talk. Trust plays crucial role in musical leadership. And we can add that trust is equally important in any form of successful leadership.
Our MusicTouch leadership development workshops enable our clients to experience this strong relationship and learn about it straight from our partner orchestras. Because, as Charles Hazlewood says, “Music making and other forms of creativity can so often go to places where mere words cannot”.

Orchestrating Management

Peter F. Drucker, one of the great management theorists, wrote already in 1988 that a typical organization structure in the future will be flat and likely resemble an organization like an university or a symphony orchestra. Even a large symphony orchestra’s structure consists of “only the conductor-CEO – and every one of the musicians plays directly to that person without an intermediary. And each is a high-grade specialists, indeed an artist. … the conductor can focus the player’s skill and knowledge on the musicians’ joint performance. And this focus is what the leaders of an information-based business must be able to achieve.”

from: The Coming of the New Organization, HBR 1988

This inspirational article describes the basis that our MusicTouch leadership development workshops stand upon. There is a lot what business leaders can learn from how a symphonic orchestra works. At ARTISTIC Interventions Inc. we offer this unique experience to our clients.