My Presentation on Leadership – How the Great Conductors Lead

On 29th April, I made my presentation at the Training Class. I had chosen a great topic to speak about – Leadership.

The video clips that I had prepared from Itay Talgam’s TED presentation on Leading Like the Great Conductors had all the ingredients to make an excellent presentation.

As I started speaking, however, my confidence level dipped and I surmised that the participants were not enjoying it. On a few occasions I also fumbled for the right words. And I did not have enough time to go through the entire presentation. I fretted for several days, that it was not a great presentation.

But the views from those who heard me were different from what I had concluded. The applause I received after the presentation was rather generous. A few participants made it a point to congratulate me separately. Manoj said words like, “Excellent”, “Wonderful” and”Dil Khush.” Two days later, he spoke to me separately and said that my content was great and I spoke with conviction. But he did not analyse my presentation. I have to get some time with him to find out the areas I need to improve.

Let me look at what I could improve the next time around.

I should have practiced and rehearsed a few times before making the final presentation. This time, I did not do it even once. I have to make it a point to practice my gestures, body language and delivery within the confines of my room, in front of the mirror, as often as possible.

When I make important presentations, my mind should be at peace, without any stress. For some reason that day, my mind was in turmoil. I should have deferred the presentation to some other day. Of course, the ideal is not to let outside events ruffle my peace.

Though the topic I covered had brilliant ideas, they were however, not my ideas and not internalized enough before they were articulated. It is not very easy to carry conviction with borrowed ideas. One of my strengths is to assimilate ideas, internalize them and communicate them adding my flavour.

I should also use examples from my life or from the people I have come across to make my talks more authentic.

Towards the end of the presentation, I got the audience to come up with a few significant observations. One was about the ideal leadership style. The consensus was that there really is no ideal leadership style. Ricardo Muti cannot be Kleiber even if he tried. Each one has to cultivate his own authentic style based on his personality and only then he or she will bloom as a leader.

But I should have also communicated the fact that there is possibility to assimilate the best styles from the examples of legends like Leonard Bernstein or Kleiber.  That can happen not by imitating the gestures of these greats but only by undergoing inner transformation within, first. Inner transformation happens first and the empowering gestures develop as a consequence.

For a great conductor, gestures are just the means to transfer the right emotion and meaning to enable the orchestra members to add a layer of interpretation to the music. Leadership is all about transferring the right, empowering emotions and meaning to the members, as they go about working towards their goals.

I believe this strongly – that true leadership is about inner transformation and blossoming of one’s personality before it empowers others. Love for oneself and for others cannot be faked. If it exists, it will shine forth in a leader’s style. Conducting is a lot, lot more than the gestures, it is about the gestures that emanate spontaneously from a liberated, happy being.

May be, faking the right gestures can induce changes inside, little by little. There can’t be rigid rules about how changes happen.

To me, being a trainer is the ultimate test of leadership. A trainer has to embody constant cleansing within, to enable that for others.

I have to improve my body language a lot. I do not smile often and I look serious most of the time. And I am not relaxed when I am in front of people. I know I can improve in these areas by practice and awareness to emerge as a leader and trainer.

When people are looking at me engrossed or serious as I am making presentations, I should not make hasty conclusions that the end of the world has come and they are not enjoying themselves. As I speak, I should hold on to a positive frame of mind. And engage with the participants, maintaining eye contact.

Last night I saw the video of the presentation. I did not look as bad as I had imagined. In the video, I looked quite composed. The presentation looked quite crisp.

I looked and sounded pretty awful when I requested people to repeat their responses with ” ha?”, “um?’ and other similar words. Please repeat”, or “beg your pardon” are a lot more pleasing.

I am just back after attending today’s class. There were two very good presentations today – one by Subbu and the other by Sita. Both of them have improved a lot.

I asked Manoj again about my presentation. He again said it was fabulous and even now remembers how well I came across. I asked for the negatives and he said none.

Ganesh who has already jumped into the training bandwagon also gave his feedback. He said it was very good, except that he would have preferred the order of the video clips slightly changed.

Anyway, is it a great thing that I am looking for validation? There is more than a tinge of eagerness to be appreciated, underpinning a lack of self-belief. And why am I not satisfied with what I am doing when others feel that I am doing great?

Be kind to yourself – at least half as much as you are kind to the rest of the world, dear boy! You are doing fine, really fine. Relax.


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