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  • Writer's pictureKenneth E. Fields

7 Scaling Secrets #7 — Finding the Right Conductor

How the Boston Pops Chose the Head of "America's Orchestra"

Keith Lockhart conducting the Boston Pops at their annual July 4th Concert and Fireworks Spectacular (Credit BSO)

Even if you don’t know the name John Williams, the odds are high that you know his music. He is the musical genius behind movie soundtracks like Star Wars, E.T., the Indiana Jones films, and the first three Harry Potter films.

Williams is also famous for his 13 years at the head of the Boston Pops Orchestra, also known as America’s Orchestra and the musicians behind Boston’s famous ‘Pops Goes The Fourth’ celebration every July 4th.

In 1992, the Pops received some surprising news from Williams; he would be retiring at the end of the 1993 season. A nationwide search was quickly started, and Pops employees were dispatched across the country to observe potential replacements.

One young conductor who caught their eye was Poughkeepsie, NY native and Furman University graduate, Keith Lockhart. A 20-month courtship ensued as Lockhart did several concerts with the Pops before being selected for a job that had been held by only two others (Arthur Fiedler and Williams) since 1930.

Why Lockhart? In short, he was different. He hadn’t ‘grown up’ in the Boston music scene and brought a different perspective to the baton…one that was interested in both great music and commercial success. Lockhart’s contributions to the Pops include EdgeFest (featuring alternative rock bands), collaborations with popular recording artists (like Sting), and even a tip of the hat to John Williams with a Star Wars concert using music from all 9 of the famous films.

An external perspective is exactly what you need if you are trying to change the organization while running it. Your leadership team is head down in the day-to-day activities of running your business…and that’s what you want them to be doing! However, you also need to make progress toward your “North Star” and that’s where you need help. External perspective can come from outside your company, outside your team, or just from outside the ‘operational’ part of your organization.

An external perspective is exactly what you need if you are trying to change the organization while running it.

This type of role can help you see blind spots, competing priorities, and new focus areas that are emerging thanks to the work being done to move toward the North Pole. So, look around you at the internal and external partners that you have and see if one of them can help you by providing a different perspective…or at least a new way of looking at some old classics!

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