Tommy Acierno

Are You a Conductor or a Musician?

My good friend, Nina Cashman, introduced me to a fascinating human being. His name is Benjamin Zander, and he's a conductor for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Specifically, she shared his TED talk with me. I didn't know what to expect. I wondered, what did she see in this video that she wanted to share with me?

Then I saw it...I felt it.

Ben's superpower is pulling beautiful music from others and helping them to express that beauty in such a way that it touches the lives of others.

He shared how in his 40's, as a conductor, he realized that conductors don't make any sound. It's his job to call sound out of the musicians in the orchestra.

He teaches the power of human expression through the medium of music. And how, when done with passion, you shift the energy of an entire room. This phenomenon is sometimes called "entrainment."

I watched with awe as he explained why I love music and why I am so intertwined with leadership.

As I mention in my About page, music has been a part of my life since a very young age. I, too, have had the pleasure of conducting my High School band as a Drum Major. Not only was that my first exposure to leadership, it was my first exposure to co-creating music without making a sound.

I teared up several times while watching the video and outright cried twice.


Because something profound suddenly connected in my being.

I understand how my experiences as a "leader" and "coach" unlocked something unique within me.

You see, I thrive as a conductor. Someone who creates the space and conditions to pull the brilliant "music" out of others.

It's taken me almost 30 years to connect these dots that have always been there.

I thrive when put in a position as a conductor, an orchestrator, a facilitator, and a leader.

How does that help you? Perhaps start by asking yourself, do I thrive more as a conductor or a musician? There's no right or wrong answer. The relationship between the two is entirely symbiotic: one can't exist without the other.

If you thrive more as a musician, who do you have in your life that helps pull out the best in you, who refines your music and helps you move others?

If you thrive more as a conductor, where's your orchestra, who are your musicians, what are they playing, and how do you pull out the very best in others so that they move others?


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