Why Business Is Like Music
I saw a presentation some years ago by a talented symphony conductor. One of his favorite quote was, “I’ve realized that the conductor is the only person in an orchestra who doesn’t make a sound.”
That’s the difference between leading a business, and working in a business.
An immediate reaction, of course, is that it’s easy to be able to afford the “overhead” of a conductor when you have a 100-piece orchestra. Fair enough. So let’s look at a smaller example.
When I was leading a group of church singers, we had between 5 and 12 people on a regular basis. As the director, I also took a very pragmatic role as one of the singers. I don’t have the talent to sing and play piano at the same time – that’s MUCH harder than it looks – but I sang, directed, and selected the music.
What was critical was to distinguish between these roles.
When I was director, my role was to lead group decisions, create and lead practices, and coordinate with the other music groups in the parish. My role as singer was clearly secondary, to supplement the others in the choir.
In the business world, a leader needs to clearly delineate his different roles – decision maker, strategic planner, salesman, customer relationships, and so on. As the company grows, employees will start taking the lead in delivering value (through marketing, sales, production, customer service, and so on) while the owner must spend more time on direction, decisions, and orchestration.
The challenge is that these leadership tasks may not feel like they’re delivering much value. If you’ve developed your skills in working with customers, it tends to feel less gratifying to spend so much time on trying to get a whole bunch of employees aligned.
The thing you have to remember is that your value in these higher level activities is multiplied by the size of the company. When you are able to motivate 15 employees to work together, your value is AT LEAST 15 times the effort you put into it. When you help five people in sales to be more effective, your value is AT LEAST five times if you just do the sales yourself.
Yes, these activities feel more “back office” than your people on the front line. Maybe you can do parts of their work better than they can. But nobody else can have the multiplying impact that you can. You’re the one who will help all the employees to create beautiful music together.
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