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September 6, 2001

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Leadership Ensemble

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 7:23 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Leadership Ensemble: Lessons in Collaborative Management from the Worlds Only Conductorless Orchestra by Harvey Seifter and Peter Economy, Times Books, 200 Pages, $25.00 Hardcover, September 2001, ISBN 0805066926
As a music junkie, I have known about the Orpheus Chamber Orchestras unique method of performing for quite some time. What sets the Orpheus apart is that they employ no conductor. Instead of the chaos you would expect (and any conductor would predict, Id wager), they have developed a system that has been successful. Harvey Seifter and Peter Economy, authors of Leadership Ensemble, believe that this system used by Orpheus is readily applicable to the modern organization. The authors say it best in the following quote: The orchestra is designed to rely on the skills, abilities, and passionate commitment of its members rather than on the monolithic leadership of a conductor. The decision to give power to the musiciansa radical innovation in the orchestra worldrequired a structural model that was fundamentally different from the rigid command-and-control hierarchy universally employed by traditional orchestrasit is most definitely not an organization without leadership. In fact, Orpheus has many leaders, and different individuals rise to leadership roles based on the orchestras needs and the demand of each piece of music.
So how exactly does an organization like this establish who is going to do what where and when? Well, the orchestra applies a five-step process:
Choosing Leaders
Developing Strategies
Developing the Product (the Music)
Perfecting the Product (the Music)
Delivering the Product (the Music)
Beyond the process, the orchestras success is founded on eight core principles:
Put power in the hands of the people doing the work
Encourage individual responsibilities
Create clarity of roles
Share and rotate leadership
Foster horizontal teamwork
Learn to listen, learn to talk
Seek consensus (and build creative structures that favor consensus)
Dedicate passionately to your mission
These principles form the structure of the book. Each principle is a chapter that offers a hands-on take-away that shows you how to put the principles into practice. So, if you want to continue to perfect your less-hierarchical organization, as I do, or know that something isnt right with the current structure of your organization and wonder whether this idea may be for you, buy this book -- and even a CD (at your nearest Schwartz bookstore) of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra to really see how well this system works after all, the proof is in the pudding!

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.