Industry the May 2020 issue

Bolero!

I’ve had my fair share of time to think about leadership over the past few weeks. This is what it looks like.
By Ken Crerar Posted on April 27, 2020

It’s not easy. The virus continues to spread, our patience continues to be tested. It’s difficult to imagine how long this nightmare will go on.

And then you get an email like this…

The news shows that the situation of COVID-19 in the U.S. is getting more serious compared to months ago. Not sure if medical masks are available to buy in the drug store or pharmacies…Our company keeps in reserve some medical masks for our important global partners. Please let us know if you need any support.

We connected this broker member (located in Beijing) with another in Barcelona, where the situation was not getting any better at the time. They worked together on the offer, and the masks have since been delivered.

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership over the past few weeks as I work daily to connect with and guide my own team. And this is the best example I’ve seen. The thoughtfulness and compassion with which this email was written was so personal. We may be global, but we are a community in every sense of the word. It was a reminder of just how human we all are and just how proud I am to lead this organization.

It seems as though there have been many instances of humanness and creativity born out of the isolation of the pandemic. I recently saw a story about a choir that was unable to perform its regularly scheduled concert so the choir conductor had the singers record their own parts and pieced them all together using technology for the entire community’s enjoyment. There was a similar story about the National Orchestra of France weaving together Maurice Ravel’s Bolero while its musicians were locked down in their homes. With upwards of 50 individual performers (with the drummer using a wooden spoon and a ladle, no less!) coming together in unison, there’s a reason it has nearly two million views on YouTube.

As business leaders, we’re all feeling like conductors lately. How do we lead our orchestra without being in front of the group? How do we get each individual to produce the same brilliant sound we know they are capable of when they’re confined to their homes and are struggling to juggle work, parental and other responsibilities at the same time? How do we successfully produce the critical components of what creates the final sound?

We’re all working in ways that are different from what we’ve done in the past. The key is that we do it while maintaining our culture and values and quality of service. That’s what leading is all about.

If you’ve ever wondered what a conductor actually does, now you know. It is our responsibility to have a vision of the music and convey it so clearly that all the musicians understand their role in making it come to life. It is our responsibility to unify the group, set the tempo, listen critically, and shape the sound of the ensemble. It is our responsibility to inspire the players to make a difference in the quality of performance. In other words, good conductors are good leaders.

Life has changed drastically for all of us over the past couple of months. But it is up to us to adjust to issues that are out of our control and pull everyone together. Some of us, like our member friends in Beijing and Barcelona, are doing it through community and service to others. Others, like the aforementioned conductors, are doing it through the power of technology. We’re all working in ways that are different from what we’ve done in the past. The key is that we do it while maintaining our culture and values and quality of service. That’s what leading is all about.

It may be some time before we find ourselves back to what we consider “normal,” but there will be good that comes out of this experience. In the meantime, listen closely, reach out to others, and let the music take hold.

Ken Crerar President & CEO, The Council Read More

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