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On Leadership

I recently watched this TED talk by Benjamin Zander entitled “The transformative power of classical music.” His message is that classical music isn’t just this far off “old people” genre but rather has a lot of meaning behind it.

In his talk, Zander mentions that he thinks he’s done his job right if the audience’s eyes are shining. Now obviously, it doesn’t mean that every single audience members’ eyes should be reflecting light, but rather that the audience is engaged with what they’re listening to. He says, “I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people. And of course, I wanted to know whether I was doing that. How do you find out? You look at their eyes. If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it. You could light up a village with this guy’s eyes… So if the eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it. If the eyes are not shining, you get to ask a question. And this is the question: who am I being that my players’ eyes are not shining? We can do that with our children, too. Who am I being, that my children’s eyes are not shining? That’s a totally different world.” “Eyes shining” is a measure of how engaged you are. More than just paying attention because you have to be somewhere. But that you are truly engaged with the music, immersed in it, and bringing your own experiences to it. That’s what Zander means when he says “eyes shining.”

Leadership is being a mentor and a servant. You can have different methods of leadership depending on your position in a team. If you are leading a team, leadership means giving them the resources they need to do their job. For example, if I was leading an IT team at a company, I would do whatever was in my power to make sure that my team has the equipment, money, and manpower to get their job done as effectively as they can. But you don’t have to be a boss to be a leader – you can lead a team even when you’re just a member of the team. An example might be if I were working on an IT team, I might be receptive of my fellow teammate’s problems and try to help them out if they were stuck on something. Or, if a teammate was feeling overwhelmed, I might offer to take some of the work off their plate. Additionally, a very easy way that everyone can be a leader is by being nice and open to collaboration. Too often I see people who are rude or snarky to other people, either on their team or other teams, and it seriously hinders productivity. And not only that, but even just me personally, I’d rather work with a group of people who like what they do and are kind and helpful. It’s just plain not fun to work with those kind of people.

There is a difference between simply being a leader and a responsible one. “Leader” is simply a title. You can lead a team to do great things or you can fail to lead a team and have nothing get accomplished. A responsible leader is a leader who can unite a team to accomplish a goal, and does so ethically. A leader might use fear to motivate their team – fear of losing a job maybe. But a responsible leader might motivate their team with a bonus if they get their project done before a deadline. Responsible leaders might also encourage their team to make ethical decisions that affect not only their own team but other people involved in the project. For example, if I were leading a team who was trying to source branded shirts for a company, I might look at manufacturers that are environmentally friendly or ones that don’t use slave labor. Part of being a responsible leader is seeing past yourself or your team. You need to evaluate every single person your actions impact – all the way from you, your team, or your organization; the city, state, country you live in; and all the way down to the contractors and suppliers your work with and the people they employ.

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