Tis the season for our children and our grandchildren to perform for us in their school and church musical concerts. I have already been to several programs and I loved every one of them. Maybe it was because my grandchildren were in them and they are just so adorable. I didn’t care about the music. I was there to see them perform and do the motions dressed in their finest Christmas outfits.
Meanwhile, I am enjoying an impromptu lunch with my friend, Dan, a guy that I met when we moved to Houston almost 20 years ago. We developed a relationship and have been very good friends for all these many years. He is a man of many talents. He is a financial genius who has offered his talents to churches and other non-profit organizations for as long as I have known him. He is extremely organized and has plied his abilities for regional and global organizations with ever-increasing levels of responsibility. Oh, and he can sing. Beautifully. In fact, he traveled the world with a famous choir.
What do these two seemingly disparate sets of facts have to do with one another? The answer is simple if you know either of us at all. Any meeting between us will inevitably end up focusing on leadership, or the lack thereof, in the various organizations that we are a part of outside of our regular work. As I was describing a leadership challenge that I am watching from a very short distance he clarified the point that I was trying to make. He said, “It is as though they are organizationally off pitch.” That was exactly the point I was struggling to make. And he clarified and summarized it in just a few words. Genius!
Although I can’t really sing all that well, I can definitely tell when someone else is singing off key or off pitch. It hurts my ears. I can only imagine what it must feel like or sound like to a guy like Dan. And I wonder, do the folks who are trying to sing really able to tell that they are off pitch? Or are they just making a joyful noise?
What is the leadership lesson?
The leadership point is this. Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where the leader is just tone deaf. And, as a result, he is making the entire organization “sound” off pitch. The leader may be making a valiant effort. But, at the end of the event, folks are cringing in their seats because the performance hurt their ears.
Leadership is not a children’s Christmas concert
Even as I type that subheading, I sense the harshness with which some may receive it. However, leadership is not like my grandchildren’s preschool program. At their program, I am not even paying attention to anyone else. I am just focused on that grandchild and I am just enjoying how much cuter and more talented they are than all the other children on the stage. I think they have the most melodious and angelic voice that ever existed.
Again, leadership is not like a children’s musical program. The leadership abilities (the musical sound) must be clear and on key. And leaders must be able to recognize when they are off pitch and they must be able to re-tune their message and methods so that they can be heard, be enjoyed, and be followed long after the music fades.
When was the last time you asked someone to come and “listen” to you lead? When was the last time you asked someone to tell you how you sound to them? Have you grown a little tone deaf over time?