We stood in awe of his performance.
He beamed as we applauded.
But he truly shone when he played his cello.
Steven Isserlis is one of the world’s leading cellists.
As Dick said when we had a drink after the performance:
“I’ve never seen anyone love playing their music as much as Steven”.
At first I thought about how amazing it would be to have someone as engaged as Steven on your team.
Someone with unbelievable talent and skill.
Someone who infects everyone around him with his passion and pleasure for his work.
Plus, his output is sublime.
Leadership Tip 1: hire right.
Leadership Tip 2: create opportunities to showcase your great work to an appreciative audience.
Then I thought about how amazing his storytelling was.
Yes, they do that these days at classical performances.
Steven told us the story of how the composer Thomas Ades challenged him. Steven told Thomas words to the effect that his music wasn’t for cello.
Thomas replied, “I’ll have to find another cellist then”.
That meant game on for Steven.
For us it meant the performance was that much more meaningful and compelling when we listened to his feats of technical brilliance.
Leadership Tip 3: use storytelling for more engagement.
Leadership Tip 4: find stretch assignments that build on your strengths (and create them for your team too).
Then I thought about the amazing Connie Shih.
She’s an outstanding pianist and was up on stage with Steven.
All the works were for cello and piano.
She had an equal part to play.
He couldn’t have done it without her.
Somehow, even though there were only two performers up on stage, she faded into the background. That’s how much Steven stands out.
And that’s to say nothing of the page-turner – all in black sitting quietly beside Connie turning her pages at exactly the right time.
Leadership Tip 5: don’t hide in plain sight (unless that’s your job like the page-turner).
Leadership Tip 6: don’t expect your excellent work to be noticed and speak for itself
Leadership Tip 7: never forget the first lines of John Donne’s poem: ‘No Man is an Island Entire of Itself’.
At the end, while taking their bows, Steven put his arm around Connie. They smiled at each other and you could see they were a team. It added to the pleasure of the evening.
Now the challenge is to bring those leadership tips from a great night out to create great days at your workplace.
What are you going to do first?
How will you do it?
How will you know you’ve succeeded?