22 Jan

Ths entry comes via my friend Anthony Centore with ThriveWorks in Boston MA.  Many thanks to Anthony for passing on the wisdom from the Director of the Boston Philharmonic.

Concept Overview:

Ben and Roz Zander believe that life is a story we tell; that we can personally invent our own story and tell it in any way we like. Ben Zander has been the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra since 1979 and is renowned across the world for his talent in bringing out the best in musicians. His leadership strategies fly in the face of traditional leadership. Rather than have a “strong, authoritative general lead his troops to victory,” Zander instead believes in an inside-out approach when leading. He defines the leader’s job as one of possibility, believing that it is their duty to help make others powerful. Zander defines several main life coaching style points when discussing the role of a leader:

A New Way of Being

Zander believes that leaders need to create a connection rather than division, call up passion rather than fear, and have unlimited vision. A leader exists to empower others. If leaders calls up passion and confidence in the people they lead, then the leaders themselves will be successful.

Speak Possibility

Avoid the downward spiral of negative thinking and instead talk about the positive possibilities. We so often get caught up in talking about what’s wrong with our situations, rather than embracing the potential each situation brings. This sort of thinking should be avoided as much as possible; instead you should focus on the great heights you can reach. Positive thinking is contagious and uplifting. The power of the mind can make these possibilities a reality.

Remember Rule #6

Zander tells the story about a leader who consistently reminded his staff to remember rule #6 whenever they came into the room flustered or upset. Every time he did so they became calm and left the room without a word. Rule #6 – Don’t take yourself too seriously! We all do it, but this can have a negative impact upon careers or personal lives.

Enroll Each Voice in the Vision

Ben puts a blank piece of paper on the stand of every musician at every rehearsal and invites them to make any suggestions they would like. He empowers them by giving them a voice in the vision. He talks self-deprecatingly about being a conductor, stating that the blank pieces of paper reminds him that he is not the center of the universe.

Look for Shining Eyes

Are the eyes of the people you lead “shining” or are they simply accepting what you have to say? You need to constantly ask yourself – is my presence enlivening people and making them passionate about being part of the spirit of possibility or are you shutting them down? A leader needs to be an inspirational force committed to the “aliveness” of people.

Voice in the Head

Everyone knows that voice. The voice that tells us we can’t do something and that we’re not good enough. A leader needs to remind people that the voice can also speak to possibility in a positive way. We control the voice. The voice does not control us. Let the voice tell us that we can do it.

Everyone Gets an “A”

Give your people a possibility to “live into,” rather than a standard they must “live up to.” On the first day of classes, Zander asks his students to imagine they got an “A” at the end of the year and write an essay about all the great things they did to get that “A.” He gives them that possibility to “live into.” He wanted the students to live in this passionate, positive world of possibility throughout the year.


The opportunities to be had within each situation virtually limitless. How one chooses to respond to them can change lives, for better or for worse. If one is striving towards leaving a positive mark in the lives of those around them, then it might be wise to take Zander’s views on leadership into account. None at the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra have been as beloved or respected as he, as a mentor, musician, or otherwise.

This article was provided by Thriveworks Counseling and Life Coaching.

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