I had been conducting for nearly twenty years when it suddenly dawned on me that the conductor of an orchestra does not make a sound. His picture may appear on the cover of the CD in various dramatic poses, but his true power derives from his ability to make other people powerful. I began to ask myself questions like, ‘What makes a group lively and engaged?’ instead of ‘How good am I?’”

A monumental question for leaders in any organization to consider is: How much greatness are we willing to grant people? Because it makes all the difference at every level who it is we decide we are leading. The activity of leadership is not limited to conductors, presidents, and CEOs, of course — the player who energizes the orchestra by communicating his newfound appreciation for the tasks of the conductor, or a parent who fashions in her own mind that her children desire to contribute, is exercising leadership of the most profound kind.

So said Ben Zander in his chapter on “Leading from Any Chair” in his 2000 book, The Art of Possibility.

The concept rings even more true today, over a decade after the book was published. As we get deeper into the information and technology revolution, leaders do not have to be the one standing on the podium and the chairs are spread all over the world.

Leading from Any Chair

Lille's national orchestra conductor Jean-Clau...

(Image credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife)

Leadership is fundamentally about inspiring and enabling others. So many people have thought and written about leadership over the centuries that I’m not even going to try to summarize the subject. For the purpose of this discussion, it’s enough to say that people can lead with their words (persuading others to follow them), their actions (showing others a way to follow), and with whom they are (being what others can follow). Different leaders will lead in different ways from different chairs.

English: Proper vertical display of the United...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some wrote the words to the declaration of independence. Others fought for our independence. Still others modeled the concepts in their daily lives. We owe the existence of our country to all of them.

Leading from Anywhere

Most have been exposed to Albert Mehrabian’s findings about face-to-face communication. Seven percent of communication comes through words. 38 percent comes through tone. 55 percent comes through non-verbal cues or body language. Note this applies just to face-to-face communication for people leading with their words. As the world gets flatter, as work gets dispersed, more and more communication will not be face-to-face.

This is why other forms of leadership are going to become more prevalent. This is why more of us are going to follow others’ actions and personal examples.

Be, Do, Say

You will choose your own way of leading. You will likely choose to lead in different ways in different times – from different chairs in different places. Keep “be, do, say” in mind. Make sure your actions match your words and that your words match your fundamental beliefs. The ability to lead from any chair from anywhere comes with a whole new set of possibilities and risks.

More on the Basics

These are just the basics. If you’re a new leader yourself, request an executive summary of our book “The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan” by clicking here. If you’re bringing someone in to work for you, request a summary of our Onboarding” book by clicking here. Or, to read about each step in The New Leader’s Playbook, click here. Now there is no excuse not to leverage those basics.

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