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Hello from San Diego and happy summer to all! Here in San Diego, June Gloom has faded out and we are now enjoying our sunny weather and hope that your start to summer is just as nice. 

In this issue of the
Navigator,  we examine the competencies needed in leaders as illustrated through a story about the music director of the San Diego Symphony.
t a recent lunch with good friend, and colleague, Dr. Miriam Rothman, she shared an article in our local San Diego paper about the retirement of our local symphony orchestra conductor. I was especially interested, as I often use the maestro metaphor in training contexts to isolate and illustrate pure leadership competencies. In career progression, one of the biggest challenges to those moving from a technical/functional (individual contributor) expert role to a leadership/supervisorial role is giving up their technical identity. Orchestra maestros dramatically illustrate this point. While they may have played violin before, when they ascend to the podium, they MUST now lead.

It turns out that, while not the intent, the author of the article brilliantly highlighted the competencies needed to be an exceptional leader. In creating competency models, we frequently use stories and anecdotes of exceptional performance to tease out the competencies present that produce a good leader. In reading the article, those competencies jumped out at me, so I've coded the article (Polaris® competencies in Red) as we might in a research project. Here's an excerpt:

Take a Bow, Maestro by Karla Peterson - SDUT May 21, 2017 page 1; A12 (abridged)

During his 13 years as the music director of the San Diego Symphony, Jahja Ling has led the orchestra in a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall and taken it on a concert tour of China. But the most important journey of the Ling years was the one that took the San Diego Symphony from shaky ground to a place of peak musical achievement. He conducted that one, too. ( Organizing & Planning, Strategic Thinking)

"He came at a really crucial time in the orchestra's history. He took tender care of the orchestra, but at the same time, he had a bold vision ( Visioning) of what could be created here," said symphony CEO Martha Gilmer.

"We are an orchestra with substantial depth now," said concertmaster Jeff Thayer. "It is no different than a baseball team. You can't just have a good pitcher and then a bunch of fakes in the outfield. You need a whole team of great players, and that is what Jahja has built." ( Team Management, Talent Development)

He came to San Diego with a history of longevity and a network of mutual-respect relationships. ( Relationship Building) He also came with a reputation for transforming good regional orchestras into respected musical contenders. ( Leader Identification, Influence)

When Ling came on board, the symphony was still struggling with (financial fallbacks), but a pledge of $120 million had put the organization on more secure footing, giving the symphony the confidence it needed to hire a music director of Ling's stature. But there were many key positions in the orchestra that needed to be filled. There were also ragged nerves to soothe and doubts to banish. ( Team Management, Composure, Leader Identification, Sensitivity)

Ling had to guide the orchestra toward a better, more harmonious future. His answer was to focus on the power of great music to redeem, rebuild and rejuvenate. ( Problem Solving, Mission Focus, Visioning)

"It was difficult. They were insecure," ( Sensitivity) Ling said. "They didn't know what was going to happen here. My mandate was to push it to be the best possible orchestra. You have to be demanding during rehearsals ( High Standards), because without hard work ( Drive/Energy), you cannot produce the results that will stun people. ( Results Orientation) "You don't want to be just good," Ling said. "You want to be excellent ( High Standards). You want to be phenomenal. You want to turn people's heads." ( Visioning)

As anyone who has watched him conduct could tell you, Ling is a live wire who is fueled by the joy of music-making ( Drive/Energy). At the podium, he is a whirlwind of motion - arms sweeping, hands coaxing, legs crouching then unfurling, face reflects every shift in tone and tempo ( Presentation Skills).

And when he heard something he liked, the praise was quick, but the smile lingered. ( Influence, Communication Skills, Talent Development, Positive Impact) He is also a teacher who relishes the chance to discover and shape young musicians, just as his mentors shaped him. ( Talent Development)

"I consider myself to be a very determined boss," said Ling, who was picking out tunes on the piano by the age of 3½ and went on to study at the Julliard School before pursuing conducting at Yale University. ( Functional/Technical Expertise) "I don't like compromise in musical terms. ( High Standards). I want the orchestra to have musical integrity. But as a human, I always think of my orchestra as human. ( Sensitivity)

"When I'm not on stage, my door is always open, and we can discuss things as friends. When I step on the podium, you cannot question me. My philosophy is, be firm without being mean. Respect is gained. It is not forced." ( Relationship Building, Influence, Communicativeness, Assertiveness)

"He was always quite talkative. He would talk to the musicians, to board members and members of the community," said a symphony supporter. "He communicated his love of music, and that became infectious. He raised the level of interest in symphonic music in the city just by his own example and sense of excitement." ( Diplomacy, Communicativeness, Positive Impact)

"I remember speaking to Jahja briefly after my audition, and he was very warm and congratulatory," said principal bassist Jeremy Kurtz-Harris. "I remember being very excited about joining the orchestra. It seemed like it was back on the map, and it was a viable place that people were willing to move across the country to join. ( Influence, Informal Communication, Relationship Building)

During Ling's tenure, the orchestra performed more than 85 works for the first time. ( Risk-Taking) The orchestra made its Carnegie Hall debut in front of a sold-out crowd. After that, Ling and the ensemble headed for their landmark tour of China. The musicians would return with a sense of confidence and camaraderie that is still palpable today. ( Team Management)

"I think Jahja is so proud of how far the orchestra has come. He talks about how inspired he is to work with them and to have them achieve their potential and then exceed that potential," Gilmer said. ( Leader Identification, Talent Development)

"I love to still make music with this orchestra. The musicians still have a rapport with me. You cannot force that," Ling said. "I love working with them and they love working with me. The product speaks for itself." ( Relationship Building, Influence)

It has been interesting lately to also read some criticism of competencies as too static or too aged to be relevant. But I've heard this before, and at the end of the day, as this article illustrates, competencies will be irrelevant when competence is!

© 2017 Organization Systems International
Welcome to the Newest Member of the Polaris® Family
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Co-authored by our very own president/senior consultant, Bruce Griffiths, and our business partner, Enrique Washington. Competencies at Work is a thorough, yet digestible look at contemporary competency modeling. It will equip readers to understand, build, and implement competency models as a foundational and integrating element in talent management systems. Readers will understand how competency models have evolved to be the current best-pr actice in defining criteria for all talent management applications such as selection interviews, promotion panels, assessment centers, job descriptions, and learning objectives. The book also provides specific guidance in the steps needed to establish a sustainable model, with research results on universal competencies contained in most contemporary models.

Competencies at Work is available now through Business Expert Press or Amazon.
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