Saturday, 31 July 2010

Zubin Mehta and Placido Domingo: lessons in leadership and life

Below is a video of Zubin Mehta conducting Placido Domingo at the first Three Tenors concert in Rome on the eve of the 1990 World Cup. The music is No Puede Ser (It Cannot Be), by the Spanish composer Sorozobal.

Interestingly Domingo was also at the final of the World Cup in South Africa this year, and naturally joined the celebrations for the Spanish victory, Spain being his home country. I wonder if he sang "it cannot be" on that occasion.  Probably not.

I love this particular video: not only because of the exquisite singing, the emotion and the magnificent setting, but also because it clearly shows great artists co-creating a transcendent moment, so we can do the same in our own lesser worlds.

Take a look.

Even though the singing is totally wonderful, and the triumph at the end is a collective one, for me the moment is mainly down to the energy, the empathy, the openness and the trust, in fact the inspired leadership, of the conductor.

After all the hard work of rehearsal, leadership at this level really is about paying attention, letting go, trusting and waiting.

Mehta had the task of bringing together the energy of two orchestra's who had never played together until that evening, a hugely talented star, and the audience waiting to be thrilled.  He lead through listening.

I love how Zubin Mehta throws his arms wide at a certain point, opening himself up entirely to whatever is coming, and then waits, even dropping his arms completely, surrendering to the emerging energy, until  Placido Domingo approaches the heights, and the conductor brings the orchestra to a towering conclusion in support of the star.

The trick is to allow it to happen, to provide a still centre that is at the same time outside the centre, holding the space, and strong enough to protect the magic that is approaching.

Watch it again, and you'll see what I mean.

I am very grateful to the always interesting Otto Scharmer for sharing this insight at a leadership workshop.  He uses the term  "presencing", which has the meaning both of bringing something important into the present, and also of "pre-sensing" that it is about to emerge, and allowing it to do so.

And I am thinking that the point illuminates so much about every aspect of life.

Although I have to say that on the political side of things, I am getting a bit tired of waiting for any kind of collective anger or militancy to emerge about what's about to happen to our welfare state, but perhaps here too the moment has not yet arrived ........

For me personally it is a lesson in that form of leadership we call parenting - the absolute importance of standing back, but holding the space.  But for you the lesson may be entirely different ....

And I totally, totally love, just LOVE, the exhultation and triumph in Mehta's face at the end.

A conductor's score and batonsImage via Wikipedia
A conductor's score and batons.

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