It’s a badge of honor within the church to think of yourself as a follower. A noble goal, of course, when we’re talking about following the teachings of Jesus. In various parts of our lives we’re sometimes called to be a leader though. Certainly as a parent, in our work places or community organizations, there are times, no matter how introverted, humble or inept we think we are, that we will be called to lead.
The mechanics, psychology and effects of leadership are very interesting to me, and considering that part of my job is leading various groups to do something – in this case, to make music in praise of God – it isn’t a surprise that an article titled “What do Conductors Do?” would catch my eye. It’s an easy thing to wonder if you’ve never sung or played an instrument under a conductor, and I’ve had plenty of people ask me that very question. All that arm waving, sometimes to the point of histrionics. What effect does that really have on the music itself? The article’s author studied the work of esteemed conductor Bernard Haitink in a master class setting and saw up close how much effect a great conductor can have on the music. The observation that was closest to my heart though was not about the intellect that a conductor brings – though there’s no denying that a thorough understanding of the music and its history is very important when getting tens or hundreds of people to understand what you’re trying to do with a piece of music. It was the role of “dance”, for lack of a better word, involved in conducting. How much can you show with your body language? Too much talk gets in the way of the “deeply primitive and instinctual” way that a great conductor – or leader of any kind – has in getting a group of people to “breathe, move and feel as one. It’s a gift: you’ve either got it or you haven’t.” read the article
You would never confuse me with a Biblical scholar, but as far as I know Jesus never asked his followers to talk about what he was doing. He simply urged them to go and do likewise, to follow his non-verbal cues of service and humility. Words matter, but with leaders moving people into new and meaningful directions something more than words is required. Courage of conviction perhaps? Clarity of vision? Passion? Walking the walk? I don’t know, but I find the questions and search for answers continually interesting.