A Composer is a Messenger of Vision

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These excerpts from Deepak Chopra, MD are as valuable to musicians and artists as they are to everyone. I think as a composer, and a performer, you are a “messenger of vision.”

A leader must be action-oriented, turning his decisions into plans. “Decision” is just as important a “D” word as “doing.”  When you are about to make an important decision, what basis do you rely on?  Modern leaders tend to be more educated than in past generations, so they are familiar with these models.

The main lessons drawn from the past tend to lead to the following conclusions:

1. Assess the ratio of risk to reward.

2. Know the situation. Gather as much external evidence as possible.

3. Judge your rival’s tactics as best you can.

4. Gather a team, which shares the same values and goals.

5. Think outside the box to avoid conventional wisdom and the rigidity it brings.

6. Learn to trust your instincts.

7. Generate enthusiasm, loyalty, and esprit de corps among your followers.

This is good advice, much of it appealing to common sense. But they skew decision-making toward the cool-headed and rational. That’s fine in the classroom; it bears little resemblance to decision-making in real life, which is fraught with stress, time pressure, deadlines, internal squabbles, conflicting aims, anxiety, and the pervasive confusion that afflicts “the fog of war” but hardly stops there.

Psychological studies have shown that emotions cannot be separated from reason, and experiments that attempt to isolate rational thinking have almost entirely failed. For example, buyers will pay too much for retail goods if they are in a bad mood or a good one. Bidders will go over their limit in the heat of auctions, and they will even pay more than an item is worth if there’s a rival they want to beat. Buying a new dress and bidding on an antiques auction are minor, everyday decisions compared with the kind that leaders must make.

The focus necessarily turns to an arena that is hard to document and analyze in leadership courses. In this arena are intangibles of mood, psychology, group behavior, social dynamics, and so on. Skill in these areas is real and invaluable, and the lessons to be learned need to begin early on. They look different from the rational angle taken so often in case studies.

1. Know yourself. Tune in to how you feel. Don’t try to be a rational robot, but don’t make decisions overshadowed by anger, jealousy, and fear.

2. See the mood of the team as a reflection of your own as their leader.

3. Earn your group’s loyalty by emphasizing hope, trust, stability and compassion, the four things that followers most want from a leader.

4. Learn the pitfalls of ego – self-importance, bravado, winning at all costs.

5. Never do what you know to be wrong – moral decisions aren’t guaranteed to work, but the opposite is guaranteed to have high personal costs.

6. Fully recognize and reward the achievements of others. Honest praise and encouragement from the leader is a valued good, just like a salary bonus.

7. Promote diverse opinions, but make sure that they are positive contributions. Naysayers, messengers of gloom and doom, and worst-case scenario experts should be avoided. Realism isn’t the same as bad news.

8. As leader, remember that you are the messenger of vision, and there’s only one of you to do that job.

9. Don’t promote an atmosphere for gambling and gun-slinging. It will lead to dishonest representation of a situation’s risks.

10. Catch yourself if you see that your followers fear you. Fear can create discipline, but the drawback is that others will be reluctant to tell you hard truths when you need to hear them.

All of these steps become natural when your goal is to live consciously – you would apply them in a family situation as much as in a corporate boardroom. They aren’t “softer” than rational analysis but instead draw upon wider aspects of a leader’s function – knowing yourself is as critical as knowing the data. In a world where resources are growing limited and competition extends globally, many more decisions will be made in the future based on consciousness of the whole situation and its human impact on everyone’s life. This is a trend well worth joining as early as possible.

About Hank

Welcome to the blog on the website of Hank Hehmsoth. Here you'll find many and varied writings of Hank Hehmsoth, from opinions, to articles and videos from related topics, and last but not least, his music. Hank frequently gives readings and talks in the Austin/San Marcos area as well as the rest of the country. If you are a creative composer or music professor and are interested in Hank teaching a master class on improvisation, composition, and related topics, such as jazz piano and harmony, at your college or university, contact him directly.
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