Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Conduct Becoming – the Orchestra as a Model of Leadership, Teamwork and Accountability

“Conduct Becoming” is a multi-media, interactive program that explores the issues of vertical institutional organization, role playing, leadership, charisma and accountability through the metaphor of the orchestra and orchestral conductor.

This presentation focuses on the complex personal interactions that create an orchestral performance.  The talk examines the various musical roles played by musicians and their analogs in the institutional and business worlds: the composer (founder), the conductor (CEO), the principal players (executive management team) and the section players (workforce).  By observing the role playing and stratification within an orchestra, we gain extraordinary insight into the leadership, trust and teamwork necessary to create a successful performance in any institutional environment.

During the first part of the session we examine what exactly an orchestra “is”; the historical development of the orchestra in the eighteenth century and nineteenth centuries and the nature of its “workforce”, meaning the families of instruments that together make up an orchestra.

The second part of the session focuses on conductors and conducting. Participants will learn the rudiments of conducting – how to conduct beats, how to speed up and slow down, and how to indicate changes in volume.  In observing great conductors on video, we will discuss emotion and charisma as elements essential to effective leadership.  In particular, we will discuss the conductor’s interpretative options and responsibility (accountability) to the score (the founding vision).

For the extended session, an activity element is added.  This activity sees the creation of a percussion orchestra from the participants.  I quickly (and most enthusiastically) teach the participants a brief percussion piece created for this program.  Four “conductors” are then chosen from among the participants, and each conductor will conduct the percussion orchestra in a “performance”.  Each conductor will have to start and stop the orchestra, indicate the tempo, the dynamics (relative volume), and balance between the instrumental parts.

This activity is a total gas.

Among the conductors viewed (on video) in both rehearsal and performance are Leonard Bernstein, Georg Solti, Otto Klemperer, Fritz Reiner, Herbert von Karajan, and George Szell. For the extended session, the percussion orchestra can be created using any variety of small, medium, and large cans, plastic pails, wood blocks, etc.

GOALS: Aside from offering extraordinary and new perspectives on leadership, “Conduct Becoming” is a great team builder and barrier breaker.  As such, it has proved to be an excellent program for initiating a multi-day institute, symposium, or retreat. 

Session length: Parts one and two: 75 – 120 minutes; parts one, two and three:  150 – 180 minutes

Contact Robert for Speaking on this Topic