Leadership Through Music

An Experience Using Music as a Metaphor and Practical Tool for Leaders

Presented by
The International Forum

This learning experience is custom designed for companies and organizations. 
To learn more about how we might do this for your organization please contact us at


The world of music delivers many examples of leadership and of people working together to create great achievements in times of change. As such it is a valuable metaphor for the individual in business today to use in understanding his or her leadership style as well as understanding better how organizations can work more effectively to get things done.

Music and business are both global forces that transcend different languages and geography. Executives or musicians must each find ways to create and innovate to use new technologies, to deal with change and to utilize efficiently the resources they have available to them. Both seek to create value and must compete to succeed. It is these similarities that enable one to learn by watching the ways of the other. Indeed, music and musicians offer insights for anyone to learn more about themselves – how well they listen, communicate and cooperate with others, use their imagination, create or solve problems.

Music is a lens through which we can visit another time or place. Music can tell us much more than history books about the people of a particular time, and about the society and economy in which they lived. Music also communicates much about the culture of the region or nation from which it comes.

• What can music tell us about our world today? What insights does it offer for understanding the changes taking place around us?
• If the music of the past illuminates our understanding of history, can today’s music help us to know where we are headed?
• How can music teach greater self-understanding and build our confidence in ourselves?

Lessons from Music for the Leader Today

Leadership is a lifelong journey to a greater degree of self-awareness and interpersonal skills. It is about “understanding” and “connecting” with others and moving them forward to new places. Developing your ability as a leader is a journey out to the world around you to understand what is changing. It is also about a journey inside yourself to know more about your values, fears, joys, strengths and limitations. The self is the instrument in the performance of leadership. In new and uncertain situations it is important to remember that we each have inside of ourselves what we need to succeed. The challenge in life is to recognize this and to know how to draw on it when circumstances change.

Learning from leaders in other disciplines besides business is immensely valuable. Learning through metaphors as one does in Leadership Through Music enables one to clear the clutter of daily life and more clearly seek answers to how we can become more effective in our work, our communities, our families and our lives.

As participants prepare for this experience they are asked to consider three questions:

1. What are you personally challenged most by in your role as a manager or leader?

2. What are the key issues that your organization is currently facing for which you would like to resolve?

3. What is changing in your customers and the marketplace and how are you dealing with this?

The Self as Instrument

Before stepping forward, a leader must first consider for himself where he stands and what are the goals he wishes to reach. Becoming truly effective at this is an inward journey of self-discovery. Musicians and composers have this journey as their prime responsibility, their prime wish and prime gift.

A musician must also be able to hear himself in order to move his performance to greatness. It is not sufficient to play the notes the right way and to get the timing right. He must envision what he wants to sound like and then really listen to himself – step outside his performance and look back at what he sees and hears. Great performers realize the importance of being able to visualize themselves as they perform.

If one envisions the performance to be mournful and sad – it will be. If one envisions it to be energized and optimistic – it will be. Musicians and other performers have the advantage of being reminded daily that they must perform for others in order to communicate. Most people in business have forgotten that this applies to them as well.

• How do you want to be seen and heard?

• What is your dream for how your performance should be and how you would perform at your best in it?

A question that is faced by every artist – how am I doing and according to whom? This is the choice in life for all of us, whether to perform to our own standards or to those of the crowd! As one famous artist said “When I am not satisfied with my performance, a good review by the critics doesn’t make me feel better”.

Leadership is as much about a journey inside ourselves as it is about a journey out to the world to understand how it is changing. How do leaders in the global marketplace today make time for this journey inside themselves? If we are to fashion a better world, a better firm and a meaningful role for business in the future – can we do this without understanding first where we stand as individuals and what we envision ourselves to be as leaders of this progress?


The Performance

The other theme of Leadership Through Music is a more visible one than the theme of the Self. It is the skill of getting other people motivated, getting them to where they need to go by providing a process where the leader clearly shows them the way while also letting them find it on their own. The realities of this are influenced by the individuals you are leading, what sort of people they are, what goals or ideas they have and how they feel about you as the leader.

The skillful and effective leader learns how to transmit what is inside himself outward to others while perceiving intensely and clearly what is around him and incorporating that back into action.

Effective communication is the key to success in this process. Communication is made up of many qualities: speaking, observing, sensing, understanding and especially listening.


In 1999 The International Forum first introduced Music as a Metaphor and Practical Tool for Leaders at the European Forum in Bruges, Belgium. What began as a simple conducting class for participants to experience what it was like to be a different type of Leader: a conductor of an orchestra, grew into a full two-day program in Cracow, Poland by April of 2000. Since then, The International Forum has used music as a metaphor for leadership development all over the world as part of Forums in Asia, North America and Europe.

The two-day Leadership Through Music program has taken place in Poland and Sweden in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Participants in this program included senior executives from companies around the world and from countries including Korea, Japan, USA, Canada, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, and UK.

The two-day program is designed, using music as a tool, to help leaders to understand their own strengths and abilities to perform under pressure and change.

No musical training, knowledge or talent is needed to participate fully and actively in the Leadership Through Music Program. It is designed specifically for people who have no training in music nor have exhibited a particular talent for music. Although a participant’s willingness to “perform” before others will enrich their learning experience, this is not required. No participant will be tested or judged, musically or otherwise, as part of this program.













Information about past programs:

bulletIn 2003 and 2004 The International Forum customized Leadership Through Music - Using Music as a Metaphor and Practical Tool for Leaders program for a group of senior managers at SEB in Stockholm, Sweden. 31 participants from the bank came from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Germany to learn more about their own leadership style and potential.  See a Movie Clip of participant  Jürgen Nedvidek (March 2003) conducting an orchestra for the first time in his life during the session  "Conducting the Company" 
bulletView a copy of the 2002 Leadership Through Music Agenda Book in Stockholm, Sweden
bulletView a List of Participants 2000 through 2002 in Krakow, Poland and Stockholm, Sweden
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