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The Law of Reproduction

April 16, 2013

(Note: This is part of a series based on John C. Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.)

John C. Maxwell has written a number of books about leading and leadership. They all have their merits and some of the books will resonate more with some readers than others, but it is his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership that provides some delicious food for thought for us in the conducting business.

Law Number Thirteen (or, Chapter Thirteen, as titled in Maxwell’s book) is called “The Law of the Reproduction.” The byline for this chapter reads, “It takes a Leader to Raise Up a Leader.”

Admittedly, Maxwell’s title for this chapter is an eye-catcher.

 (No. Not that kind of reproduction.)

When Maxwell once conducted a poll asking leaders in his leadership conferences what prompted them to become leaders, he got this result:

  • Natural Gifting  10%
  • Result of Crisis  5 %
  • Influence of another leader  85%

Truly informative numbers when it comes to the cultivation of leadership. It shouldn’t be a surprise that most leaders need mentors, heck most conductors crave mentorship and most all of us have had some great mentors in our past (or present). But what do you do when you have a terrible mentor? More on that in a future post. Stay tuned.

Following in great steps is a typical course for great leaders. For great leaders must be cultivated and follow a great example. Take a look at who Maxwell cites, the great football coach, Bill Walsh:

For those of you who know football, just take a look at that impressive “family tree” of leadership!

Maxwell states that “only leaders are capable of developing other leaders. People cannot give to others what they themselves do not possess.” Students of conducting would do well to observe their teachers well. Do they show strong, compassionate, and organized leadership skills? Are they thinking of the benefit of the ensemble, or only of themselves. Someone who is a terrible leader can only give you that: terrible leadership skills. (Sure, it’s true that we can learn what not to do from bad leaders, but that’s the “long-way-’round” to productive leadership. It’s much more effective to go find a good leader to follow.)

Not all great leaders take the time to develop other leaders. (Such as football great, Vince Lombardi, who didn’t have many acolytes.) Why is that? Some leaders don’t see the value in developing other leaders, and some are just poor teachers of the craft. For some leaders, the problem lies with their own insecurity. (A real problem in the conducting world!)

 (Put this guy in a tux and hand him a baton.)

 Maxwell goes on to state, “We teach what we know, we reproduce what we are.” You learn from your leaders the ways of doing business in an orchestra, the way to treat people, to conduct business, to manage a rehearsal, to coordinate many moods and personalities, not to mention perspectives. When you grew up performing in an ensemble, you couldn’t help but be influenced by your conductor’s behavior. That’s the way it is for you once you are a conductor: the group notices your behavior, your values, and your actions. And, they reflect them.

The only way you’ll develop leaders is to become a better leader yourself. Maxwell states, “Keep in ind that leaders who develop leaders…

SEE THE BIG PICTURE — Every effective leadership mentor makes the development of leaders one of his highest priorities in life.

ATTRACT POTENTIAL LEADERS — Leaders don’t flock, you have to find them one at a time. But, as the Law of Magnetism suggests, the stronger leader you are, the stronger potential leaders you’ll attract.

CREATE AN EAGLE ENVIRONMENT — An environment where leadership is taught becomes an asset to a leadership mentor. It not only attracts ‘eagles’ but it also helps them learn to fly.”

Maxwell sums up the development of leadership thus, “It all starts at the top because it takes a leader to raise up another leader. Followers can’t do it. Neither can institutional programs. It takes one to know one, show one, and grow one. That’s the Law of Reproduction.”

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