Zander's Compelling Question
Benjamin Zander, conductor of The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and co-author of The Art
of Possibility, said “I have a definition of success. For me, it's very simple. It's not about
wealth and fame and power. It's about how many shining eyes I have around me.” Zander
travels the world leading orchestras and speaking about leadership. He describes an old
style of leadership, one that is top-down, hierarchal, and right-thinking. This leadership
dynamic comes at a high cost, often stealing the energy, self-expression, engagement and
well-being of its followers. Zander had a powerful ah-ha moment when he realized that as a
conductor - with all of his expertise, passion and energy - at no point does he actually
produce a sound. The sound is produced by the members of the orchestra themselves
playing through their instruments. He saw clearly that his success as their leader comes from
bringing out the unique brilliance in each of his individual players.
This revelation compelled Benjamin Zander to rethink his mode of leadership.. He said, "“My
job is to awaken possibility in other people. If their eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it.
If they're not shining you get to ask the question: Who am I being that my players’ eyes are
not shining? (Zander, The Art of Possibility).” Zander’s new perspective on leadership takes
us out of a paradigm defined by downward spirals, competition, fear and pressure. He
invites leaders to engage followers differently, with the objective of drawing out and
developing the unique talents of each follower. Zander learned he could determine his level
of success by looking into the eyes of his followers. Shiny eyes reflect individual brilliance,
amazing self-expression, high engagement and strong well-being.
As parents we serve as the most influential leaders throughout our children’s early
development. Zander applies his question to parenting by asking, “Who am I being, that
my children's eyes are not shining?” We invite parents to discover with us a new style of parenting that develops the unique strengths of our children, creating shining eyes, alive to
the passion and purposes they were meant to live out.