Harmony Depends on Leadership

Strange to find a conductor at a tech conference? Not really. 

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor of the Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra, gave a talk on leadership at C2 Montreal, a topic he addressed in the conference Local Talent, Global Influence.

Winning leadership

Whether you lead an orchestra, a company or a sports team, the basics of good leadership are the same. Being a leader, and a good one, cannot be improvised. 

For Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the first quality of a leader, regardless of his or her field, is to respect the background of those with whom you work; respecting the knowledge and skills of others is a key point of good leadership. Leading a team is like leading an orchestra: the experiences, skills and abilities are multiple, different and complementary. Experience should not prevent us from being amazed by what others can bring us. 

“I find interacting with people to be a wonderful thing, requiring wonder and a clean slate every time.”

Being a good leader, in an orchestra or not, is also about inspiring confidence in those you supervise. Trust is a two-way street, so to inspire trust, you have to trust others. The same goes for respect: being respected in one’s position as a leader starts by respecting those you lead. 

We must not forget that being a leader means being in contact with people, because it is this contact and the synergy with those we work alongside that gives meaning to what we do, whatever our field. 

The leader, the one who sets an example

Before being a leader, you have to be passionate. Passionate about what you do, but also passionate about what others have to offer you both professionally and on a personal level. The professional world is one filled with opportunities to learn, especially from others, regardless of our position in the hierarchy. A leader must be an inspiration to others, and to be that inspiration he or she must maintain passion for his or her field and authenticity with respect to his or her love for his or her work. 

“My authenticity is showing that I love what I do. The passion. And that is often forgotten when you’re in a leadership position, as a director, manager, chief […] you forget that what you have to do is inspire people.” 

This authenticity is also what will build trust, and from this trust comes communication which is also one of the pillars of leadership. While the position of leader or superior may seem difficult because with it also comes the aspect of assessing and correcting other people’s work, the leader must try to detach him or herself from that vision to position him or herself as the primary supporter of those he or she leads. 

At Middle, our hierarchy is horizontal and based on communication and trust. While we are aware of each other’s positions and responsibilities, we are also free to communicate without the apprehension that might arise from a leadership with a strong hierarchy. 

We are also fortunate to work in a diverse environment, with different backgrounds, skills, qualifications and career paths. 

This diversity allows us to learn from each other, professionally but also on a personal level. We do not claim that this model is THE model, unique and unchangeable. It is the one that works for us, and it resonates with the vision of Yannick Nézet-Séguin.


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