4.3 What is Leadership?

What is Leadership?

One of the leading texts on leadership is The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. Maxwell asserts that the true measure of leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less’ (Maxwell, 1998, 11). He uses the example of Mother Teresa: at first glance she may not have looked like a leader, but old and frail though she was, she exerted such tremendous influence that she could be extraordinarily critical of a room full of world leaders and they would sit there and take it. If she didn’t have so much influence, either they wouldn’t have been there in the first place or they would quickly have left.

One might contrast this with the now outdated view of a conductor as an autocratic dictator who could hire & fire his musicians (almost always a ‘he’) at will, and wielded power by virtue of his position. A conductor nicknamed ‘The Screaming Skull’ by the orchestras he conducted, or who berates his musicians in the manner that can be heard in various clips readily available online, may not go down too well in the 21st Century.

Try searching for “Toscanini” and “bassi” in YouTube and see what you find!

A Conductor’s Attributes

(Allow around 5 minutes for this activity)

What do you think are key attributes for a conductor?


You may have come up with a number of characteristics, hopefully all positive.  Maxwell states that leaders possess seven key attributes: Character, Relationships, Knowledge, Intuition, Experience, Past Success, Ability

Let’s look at each one of those in turn and explore how they relate to conducting.

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