The maestro and the IT manager

Published: April 7th, 2008

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It doesn’t matter how old you are: boring classes are always a little better when you get to watch a video.

A few years ago I was trapped in an industrial park somewhere in Brampton, with a bunch of other managers I barely knew for an all-day training session. This was No. 2 of a projected six, if I recall correctly (thankfully, my group was acquired by my current employer before I could complete the course). Amid the idiotic role-playing games, the snooze-inducing lectures and out-of-touch management techniques, the instructor played a five-minute clip of Benjamin Zander that gave me an instant snapshot of the kind of leader all IT professionals should strive to become.

I recalled that video this weekend when my wife and I attended a concert given by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Zander, who has spent years leading the Boston Philharmonic, was the guest-conductor. As a sort of sideline to his musical career Zander has also become a sought-after name on the corporate speaker circuit, delivering motivational talks to all kinds of companies. It doesn’t take long to see why. Funny, learned and nearly bubbling over with enthusiasm, he commands a room as surely as he does a stage. For this particular concert he offered a pre-show chat, and I wasn’t about to let the opportunity slip by.

Of course I’m aware that the CIO-as-maestro metaphor is now a well-worn clich



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