Recently attending a Mahler concert highlighted an important leadership lesson about courage and confidence.

Let me set the scene. We were at the newly refurbished concert hall at the Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra was about to play Mahler’s Symphony No 1, conducted by Simone Young.

It’s a BIG piece – I reckon there were over 100 musicians on stage. All professionals – at the top of their game.

In comes Simone. Quite obviously in charge.

The music begins and flows over us building

to a massive crescendo with crashing cymbals and timpanis in the final movement, finishing to a rapturous standing ovation.

Watching this reminded me of two leadership lessons I learned decades ago.

Your job as the leader is to set the vison and tone, structure and accountability and then let others get on with it.

As a conductor, Simone’s job is to interpret Mahler’s score and put her own stamp on it.

Every member of the orchestra knows their part and accountable for what they produce. They’re experts playing their specific instruments.

It would be foolish to think Simone as the conductor could play each instrument – let alone well.

Given this, you can delegate but not abrogate responsibility. As a leader you’re still responsible for the final output.

The conductor’s job is to coordinate and lead the team in creating a cohesive sound, trusting that each individual will play their part. Anyone out of line will create disharmony. Just imagine a cymbal crashing at the wrong moment.

And the second lesson is to always hire the best people for a role – and where possible people better than yourself. Which takes courage – putting your ego aside and confidence that others can perform at a level they need to.

In business that multiplies your results and gives you freedom to pursue other tasks.

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