A man among equals: Conductor Mariss Jansons
Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons is held in high regard by musicians the world over. At 72 years old, he’s been the chief conductor of the Dutch Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for ten years. When the BBC’s Global Business Correspondent Peter Day went to see the orchestra perform at the Barbican in April, it inspired him to write a piece for the BBC website about his observation of the great man at work.
“With restrained gestures and the subtlest of facial expressions, he drew from the orchestra the most glorious performance,” he wrote. “This was not a leader in charge of a production; it was a man among equals, enabling the ensemble to flower, joining their efforts to his to evoke the spirit of the music.”
As Day watched the orchestra perform Bruckner’s Symphony Number Seven, with a clear view of one side of Jansons’ face, he was able to see that, rather than fulfilling the stereotype of the all-powerful conductor, imposing his will on 120 people, “Mr Jansons knew he could trust the musicianship of his superb players. What he had to do was to realise the possibilities of the ensemble.”
The observation led Day to contemplate what businesses and organisations can learn from the model of the orchestra, a theme that is central to Moving Performance’s Know The Score® programme. He noted that Jansons’ model of leadership isn’t autocratic but collaborative and respectful.
The orchestra members have all gone through a rigorous application process to gain their seat in the band. Jansons doesn’t insult their efforts by acting as if they’re not capable of the role they’ve appointed to, but rather comes to the rehearsals and performances assuming they’ll have done the preparation and work needed for them to come together and create a memorable musical moment for the audience. Arguably, this is why he’s held in such great esteem by his colleagues and fellow musicians. His leadership style is based upon mutual trust.
Jansons’ secret, in his own words, as he told Gramophone magazine several years ago, is “to find out the orchestra’s special qualities and preserve them. Then, if through a natural process, my own individuality adds something – and theirs to me – then it will be fine.”
To cultivate a collaborative leadership style acknowledge the expertise in your team that makes you one among equals, and you’ll bring out the highest performance in you organisation.