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Open session case study

Our embodied approach used conducting and singing to develop clear and compelling leadership

"Conducting was an excellent tool, and created rich data on leadership and being led. There was something much more acute about it as an experience compared to other methods I've tried. A fantastic session."

 
 

Today’s leaders must do more than simply ‘tell’. To be effective they must also ‘be’. In this half-day session we used choral conducting to help leaders align body and brain for greater presence, influence and impact.

The challenge

‘Command and control’ leadership not only feels out of date but, for many, proves ineffective. To have real impact, leaders must embody their vision – physically, emotionally and intellectually – and engage colleagues to own it for themselves.

Our session needed to help leaders from diverse organisations act with their full selves and embody the change they wanted to see. To do this we needed to meet their following needs:

  • Develop greater presence
  • Develop awareness of non-verbal messages – one’s own and others’
  • Manage uncertainty and anxiety
  • Create alignment between thought and delivery
  • Understand the impact of their personal leadership style

The solution

We delivered a half-day session for 15 participants. The session was designed to help participants gain insight into their own leadership styles, and develop greater influence and impact by interacting with full selves rather than words alone. Our key tools were choral conducting and singing. As with all our work, no musical experience was required for full participation.

We began by reconnecting participants with their bodies through a series of mindfulness, breathing, postural and performance techniques. These helped the participants align verbal and non-verbal messages, develop greater physical presence, and be more responsive in the moment. Each participant then chose three techniques to practice through the session, particularly during the leadership exercises that followed.

The participants then learned a short, simple song in harmony. We used this as the basis for further exercises exploring body language and eye contact to align intention with delivery.

The song was then handed over to the group. Each participant implemented one simple, small change to song they had learned. They then conducted in turn, engaging the group to deliver their vision in words, posture, expression, vocal tone, storytelling, modelling and attitude.

‘Conductors’ were encouraged to experiment, hone initial attempts, try different techniques, and be curious about their impact. Feedback was offered both by the leader to the group and vice versa to give each a chance to test, review and assess effectiveness.

The strongly experiential session included facilitated discussion and feedback to capitalise on the insights gained during practical exercises. Drawing on this, and their three chosen tools, each participant committed to specific actions they would implement back at work.

Outcomes

The participants noted the following outcomes.

  • Greater awareness of their bodies helped the participants to be more present in the moment, particularly when under pressure or facing uncertainty
  • Deeper understanding of how much their own body language impacts on what they are trying to achieve
  • Greater insight into the impact of their leadership styles on others, both by conducting and being conducted
  • Deeper understanding of their responses to others’ leadership styles through being conducted
  • Greater insight into how they can be more aligned in their communication – and avoid the assumption that their vision will be realised on words alone
  • More able to take a more aligned and embodied approach to leadership back at work by applying the set of personal tools each participant created
  • Greater insight into challenges at work that, like conducting, involve uncertainty, ambiguity and anxiety
  • Able to use that insight to acknowledge and address those challenges in a way they are sometimes unable to at work

Impact

“Conducting was an excellent tool, and created rich data on leadership and being led. There was something much more acute about it as an experience compared to other methods I've tried. A fantastic session."
Participant, Conducting Leadership session

“The session got us ‘doing’ rather than ‘thinking’, so we were able to experience a real leadership scenario. And because it was so different from day-to-day experiences, I was able to see the link between my actions and the group’s responses really clearly. It was fun, refreshing and inspiring.”
Participant, Conducting Leadership session

"The conducting was brilliant – it made me much more aware of how much my body language impacts on what I'm trying to achieve. An extremely effective approach to developing leadership skills."
Participant, Conducting Leadership session

 

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