Tiffany Chang



To go first

Posted by Tiffany Chang on February 15, 2021 at 10:45 PM

What does leadership mean in music? First, we must consider that to lead means to go first, to be the first to do something. Once the leader goes and does it, everyone else follows because they think "oh, I can do it too."


I'm interested in why don't more musicians want to go first? Musicians are creative, curious, courageous people, so why are there not millions of musical innovators and leaders pushing the envelope? Why would we rather sit there and be told what to do? That happens a lot in large organizations like orchestras. Why are we OK with being stuck doing things the same way? Why do we tell ourselves that we're not ready to share our ideas or that they're not good enough?


Well, it's because it doesn't feel safe and we want to protect ourselves and our survival in the world. We crave the safety net of approval, support, and belonging. When we go first, there is a real threat of failure and alienation, and it comes with stress, anxiety, and humiliation. Musicians are conditioned to practice and practice in a safe, private environment so they can reduce their risk of failure when they go public. It's really hard for us to say, "I have this neat idea. It might not work, but I'm going to do it anyway because it is important to me." It's really hard for us to say, "Here's a work in progress. What do you think?"


So - we love our leaders because they went first, bravely going out of their way to create a path, proving that it is safe for those who follow to do the things they've always wanted to do.


What if you could be that leader? That leader that creates that environment of safety for others? Let's ask ourselves: What if we went first? Who would then feel safe to follow us?


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