Itay Talgam: Listening and Creative Leadership
SPEAKING.COM: When and how did you discover your passion for music and begin your conducting career?
ITAY: I played the Piano from the age of six, but hated practicing. As a teenager it seemed to me that conducting and composing would give me a really cool image, so I studied both! My four-year tour as an officer in an army combat unit took me away from practicing but not from my love of music. When I was released from my army duties, I started studying Philosophy and Conducting. All this led to a meeting with my musician idol, who later became my mentor: Leonard Bernstein.
SPEAKING.COM: Why is music a successful metaphor for business?
ITAY: Making orchestral music contains individual expression and collaborative exchange in equal measure, both reaching the highest, most refined degree. Any business that seeks to gain the maximum contribution from its team—one that is harmoniously organized to achieve continual, unified excellence—can benefit from this metaphor.
SPEAKING.COM: Can you give us some advice on fostering teamwork?
ITAY: Listen, Listen, Listen! If you become a listener you help create the same quality of listening in other people. What this means is that ‘noise’ is reduced: people no longer need to shout for attention or to speak as if they want to satisfy their bosses, they can concentrate on being the best they can be… together.
SPEAKING.COM: How does being a conductor relate to communication and leadership?
ITAY: Conductor is a beautiful English word; it is unique because it does not imply hierarchy, but rather connectivity. That is a whole different understanding of leadership in a nutshell.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the greatest challenges you see leaders facing today?
ITAY: Complexity: too many things happening, no human can be on top of everything. How can you let go and still be in control?
Innovation: How do we keep cherished traditional values alive in the face of quickly advancing new technologies?
Cynicism: Money being the only common language drains all meaning from work and relationships: how do we rediscover authentic shared meaning?
SPEAKING.COM: What insights have you gained about leadership, being one of the leading figures in Israeli music?
ITAY: My experience, like anyone’s, is informed by the lessons I’ve learned from mistakes I’ve made – some unimportant, some quite miserable, but some very successful mistakes. By saying “mistakes” I do not mean that there was a “right“ answer and I missed it – I mean that the only way to advance somewhere is by constantly exploring the gaps between your own vision, plan, intentions and reality. In Israel the prevailing work culture allows for some space in which you can make safe mistakes, I feel that’s important.
SPEAKING.COM: In your world travels and work with diverse groups, who are some of the leaders you most admire and why?
ITAY: I admire people who are willing to admit ignorance when they come to a presentation with a musician like myself. I admit to knowing nothing about their field of work, and yet I am there to teach them. They are willing to believe that I offer something of value for them, even if they cannot begin to imagine what that might be. This is the only frame of mind that allows for learning, and is hard to adopt: an open mind.
SPEAKING.COM:What are you currently working on?
ITAY: A ‘green roof’ on my home in Amsterdam…
To bring Itay Talgam to your organization, please contact Speaking.com at: Speakers@Speaking.com.
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