Conductor and music teacher Benjamin Zander is an unlikely source for lean lessons. In his increasingly high profile role as corporate speaker on leadership, however, he shows that the lessons of lean leadership applies to the orchestra pit every bit as much as to the factory floor and the accounting office.
A common description of the lean approach to leadership is to lead as though you have no authority. This approach eliminates the traditional "command and control" method of management. Instead, it necessitates leaders to acquire knowledge and experience that will enable them to *earn* the respect, loyalty, and support of their staff.
Zander's approach to conducting an orchestra is strikingly similar. He says that the great conductors are like any other great leader: they understand that because they don't make a sound (only the musicians actually make music), their true power “derives from [their] ability to make others powerful.” From Zander's perspective, in this model of leadership
the conductor sees his job as awakening possibility in others. The orchestra is a group of highly trained individuals poised to coalesce into an effective whole. Passion, creativity and the desire to contribute are basic human instincts to be released.
Or, more poetically,
The leader is the relentless architect of the possibility that others can be.
This view of leadership is part and parcel of the "respect for people" pillar of lean philosophy. Both Kevin Meyer and Mark Graban have written eloquently and often about the necessity of viewing employees as more than just a pair of hired hands, and Bob Emiliani has penned a detailed analysis of this critical concept as well.
Whether you're conducting an orchestra or leading the janitorial staff, real excellence and organizational sustainability can only come from management that can elicit the best from fully engaged workers.