The conductor of a symphony orchestra has the best seat in the house. All the music is focused right at him. From the podium he hears and sees everything that is going on. He sees things in the back row of brass that the violinists in the front row can’t. He hears things from the clarinetists that the timpani players can’t. He gets all the information from the podium.
That information is what he uses to guide his orchestra to create a beautiful sound.
The leader of a team has the best seat on the team. He gets all the feedback from all the different members of the team. He gets all the different perspectives and is able to plot them against the big picture. From his position of leadership he sees and hears things that the individual members of the team cannot always see and hear.
That information is what he uses to guide his team to achieve more.
But what about the view from the other side?
The podium, while offering a clear view, also puts the conductor in a position of power. Everything he says or does is amplified. Every word, movement, gesture is larger than life. Conductors who use grandiose gestures and sweeping movements are fun to watch. But they take the focus off the music and put it on themselves. They use their power to control. The musicians soon learn that it it is not about them, but about the conductor.
An experienced conductor, however, knows that the true power of an orchestra comes from the musicians, not from him. He uses his movements sparingly, knowing the podium amplifies everything he does. It doesn’t take much movement of the wrist to move the baton. His job is to put the focus on the orchestra, to direct their power.
The leader of a team needs to realize that his leadership is like a podium. Every word and action is amplified. He can go yelling and screaming and put all the focus on him, or he can use subtle movements that put the focus on the team and direct their power.
The podium is the best seat in the house. But you better know how to handle it.
PS Every word is amplified, too. Choose your words carefully, constructively. Your team is looking to you for direction. They will follow what they see and hear you do, including those casual, flippant remarks you thought were harmless. Read this from Bob Phibbs to see more of what I mean.