Conducting Change: The effect of a music director’s leadership factors on players’ performance within the symphony orchestra

Mehran Tebyani


The connection between an orchestra and its music director or conductor is an organic working synthesis that, in the best cases, serves and elevates the music making beyond the dry reading of a score to produce sonic landscapes within the mind’s eye of the audience and a direct link to the emotional intentions of a composer's work. Orchestras need conductors who bring talents together and unify energy through a shared and well-transmitted vision. They can either weave creative, devoted knowledge workers together to create success or through hostile directive leadership, deconstruct effective teams through poor coordination, bad timing or assigning people to roles that are not best suited to their strengths.

Furthermore, the role of a conductor in a symphony orchestra is changing. The stereotype of a conductor as an authoritarian and, sometimes, tyrannical “prima donna” is being replaced by the inspiring leader and encouraging coach who treats players as highly skilled professionals on a cross-functional, integrated team.

The desire to understand how to produce impactful and high-quality classical music performances and its relationship to leadership mode of a music director is the foundational reason for this study. An analysis of the body of literature on transformational and transactional leadership modalities as described by Burns, Bass, and Avolio is undertaken in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 contains the descriptions of the amended MLQ-6S questionnaire that were used for data gathering from 100 professional performing artists. The findings and results are enumerated in Chapter 4 and an analysis, conclusions, and further areas of research are contained in Chapter 5. The key findings from this analysis help future music directors to better understand how using the leadership factors affect performing impactful and high-quality classical music. This is the foundational reason for this study.