Recently, I was deeply moved listening to Benjamin Zander interpret classical music to his students and during a TED Talk, demonstrate his ability to bring out the very best in his fellow musicians. He is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, founder of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and probably one of the best interpreters of past classical composers in the world today. Benjamin has managed to lead his team of musicians to live out the inspiring vision of the orchestra – “Passionate music-making without boundaries” – in ways that are empowering, enabling and inspiring, making music, not only as a performance, but also and more importantly, as a medium for profound communication. He was not always like this – he mentioned that he was previously autocratic, instructing people what to do and how to do it. One day, having conducted for twenty years, in a life-changing experience, he realised that the conductor makes no sound during a performance – yes, his picture appears on the CD covers, arms waving in the air, but the music is created by the musicians. Benjamin suddenly realised that the power of the conductor depends on his ability to awaken possibility in others to realise his or the orchestra’s vision.

Although trained as a cellist, he demonstrated on the piano how the music score and intention of the composer leads the body to move, rather than the body boldly moving the music forward deliberately, note by note – this was best shown through his resting on one side of the buttocks, rather than sitting squarely on the piano stool, feeling the music and transporting the emotional intention to the audience through his feeling of this emotion and corresponding body language. The measurement that Benjamin uses regarding the effectiveness of the communication is ‘shiny eyes’ – are the eyes of the musicians or patrons shiny or not? If not shiny, then the question should be asked: “Who am I that my players/patrons eyes are not shiny?”

In the business world, we need one buttock managers. One buttock managers understand the following:

  1. People, not product, must realise intimacy with the customer – striving for perfection and quality is not good enough. Achieving quality and accessibility of products means that the customer gets what they want; intimacy, on the other hand, changes the world.
  2. Two buttocks management is disempowering and uninspiring – management by ‘telling’ and instructing is autocratic. One buttock management leans in and communicates inspiration, vision and hope.
  3. The manager’s presence and communication is guided by the vision (the company’s musical score) – the manager’s power lies in his/her ability to awaken possibility in others to realise the vision of the company. Vision is not taught, but caught.
  4. The eyes of the employees/customers need to be shiny – real engagement needs to take place. Both employees and customers need to be moved profoundly – for the employee, this impact lies in being part of a worthwhile vision (having a profound part to play); for the customer, this impact lies in experiencing caring service (being treated with dignity and respect).
  5. Possibility is not just positive thinking, but lies in awakening creativity – positive thinking sees the brighter side of negative contexts; possibility thinking seeks out and finds creative solutions. It inspires the very best thinking amongst staff.

One buttock managers have the ability to move employees profoundly – the skill of emotional engagement in alignment to the company’s vision, mission, values, strategy and goals. One buttock managers can change the world.

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