Cliff Dochterman - "You Are the Conductor!"

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Cliff Dochterman, Past RI President

"You Are the Conductor"

What kind of leadership will you give to the club presidents, secretaries, and district committees in your district next year?
 
Google lists over 4 million entries on leadership. But I don’t believe there is one description of the leadership of a Rotary district governor. There are so many different styles of leadership. However, your leadership job is unique because you are leading a group of Rotary volunteers. What is the style of a successful governor?
 
A district governor won’t survive very long using the leadership style of a top sergeant — no matter how much you try, those club presidents will never line up for marching orders.

A district governor will never be effective using the leadership skills of an animal trainer — whose tools are a whip and a chair. You can never keep club presidents under control.

A district governor will never find much success using the techniques of a football coach — yelling instructions to players in a championship game.
 
The leadership skills of a successful district governor, working with volunteer Rotarians, require special consideration and personal skills. There is no chance for you to fire your volunteers and hire a new group of club presidents.
 
Over the years, I have observed that some of the most effective Rotary leaders are those who exhibit the leadership skills and temperament of a symphony orchestra conductor. Just as your district leaders and club presidents are composed of a wide variety of men and women with unusual abilities, special interests, and many experiences — a symphony orchestra is also composed of many distinct units, unique individuals, with a variety of skills and abilities.
 
Over here is the orchestra’s string section, composed of violins and cellos. I would compare them to those Rotarians who are important to your district, but often rather high strung and frequently need to be tuned in to the issues at hand since they carry the theme for the year.
 
Over here our orchestra has the woodwind section — clarinets, oboes, and bassoons, which have a wide range to cover in the musical score. In Rotary the woodwinds might be the quiet members of your leadership team, who are perfectly willing to take on the high and low notes of your performance. But once in a while you may hear a squeak or two from that section.
 
Over there is the orchestra’s brass section — the trumpets, trombones, and tubas. In your district they are the Rotarians you can always hear loud and clear. When they toot their horn, you know they have an opinion — clearly expressed. And if it’s the tuba guy, the sound may be just an occasional “oomph.”
 
In the back of our orchestra is the percussion section, with drums, symbols, and all the bells and whistles. I suspect every Rotary club and district has a percussion section — they beat the drum for their pet projects or use a drum-roll to announce their arrival. You can’t miss the percussion section in any club.
 
In every orchestra there are those who work behind the scenes — the stagehands. They place the stage risers, set out the chairs, and handle the lighting and sound effects. In your Rotary district these are those faithful members whom you can always count on. They are always ready, and seldom complain. They often serve as sergeants-at-arms or aides for the RI president’s representatives.
 
Then there is the actual performance at the concert, which is the end result of the hours of practice, endless rehearsals and the thoughtful preparation. In your district, that is your district conference. It is the showplace of the very best you have to offer. It becomes the major production of your year.
 
And frequently there is another group attending the symphony — the music critics. They always have an opinion or observations about every performance. In Rotary these critics are frequently identified as — past district governors.
 
Just as the symphony orchestra is made up of many different instruments and players, you find the same differences, interests, and abilities in the club leaders in your districts. Your job is the same as the symphony maestro, who uses leadership skills to bring together the strings and woodwinds and brass and percussion units into a symphony of beautiful music.
 
How will you do it? What kind of leadership and management skills will you need to bring together the Rotarians in your district to create the concert you will direct during 2015-16?

Let’s look at some of the skills of the symphony conductor:

1. Prepared. The conductor knows the music being performed. We say he “knows the score.” The conductor continues to learn and practices every day to be a better leader. He or she is aware of all the notes, symbols, and marks that bring out the best of each performer. Yes, the conductor is prepared and prepares his musicians to be the best they can.
 
2. Listens. The maestro listens all the time. The conductor hears the slightest tunes that are out of key. They listen to unique combinations of sounds and seek the best. Yes, the conductor is a listener!
 
3. Shares. Symphony conductors are constantly sharing their experiences and giving instruction based upon training and knowledge. The music leader creates the tempo, the volume — and puts personal feeling into the music. Yes, every conductor must be a sharing person.
 
4. Encourages. The great symphony maestros encourage each of the musicians and recognize the exceptional performances of each musical section. He or she brings this group up and tones that section down as they interpret the entire composition. At every performance, the conductor may take a bow — but always recognizes the entire orchestra and always gives tribute to the soloists. Yes, the successful conductor encourages and recognizes all the players.
 
5. Develops. Every symphony musician is seated by levels of performance, and the conductor is constantly developing the musicians to move up to first chair. As you know, the first violin player is the concertmaster and sits in the chair nearest to the conductor. In each section the maestro is developing players to enhance their musical talents and moving to higher levels of performance.
 
6. Performs. The final achievement of an orchestra is the performance for the enjoyment of others.
 
All the diverse parts come together in a beautiful concert. There is where the conductor’s skills are on public display. All of the musicians, under the direction of the maestro, make the concert their finest hour.
 
The interesting thing is that these six leadership skills of the symphony conductor are almost identical to the leadership styles of successful Rotary district governors.
 
The successful district governor is carefully prepared.
 
In your district, the governor is the one who is well aware of the plans and goals of our Rotary International president. The governor is well aware of the policies, bylaws, and customs of Rotary within his or her district. The governor is prepared to give a year of committed leadership to the district.
 
The successful district governor is an excellent listener.
 
Governors who do more listening than talking will usually be the better leaders of their district. As you listen, you will become aware of the strengths and weaknesses, which should be addressed. It is amazing what you can learn when you just listen. The governor who is aware of the issues within the clubs will always be better prepared for effective action.
 
The successful district governor shares experiences and knowledge.
 
Most governors have experiences in service projects, club activities, The Rotary Foundation, and youth programs that can be shared with presidents and district committees. Throughout this week you have had many discussions and picked up ideas that give you excellent information to be shared with your district leaders. An effective governor will share thoughtful and friendly advice with all of the club and district workers.
 
A successful district governor gives encouragement and recognizes good work.
 
Well-deserved recognition is one of the most effective forms of motivation. A public word of appreciation or a short note of thanks is a vital part of a governor’s leadership skills. Be generous with your encouragement. Be sincere with your praise. And I assure you that you will have the strongest team your district has ever seen. Recognition is a public form of a governor’s thoughtfulness.
 
A successful district governor will develop new leaders to build a stronger district for the future.
 
Each year new Rotarians need to grow and blossom into future leaders. A district governor is in the ideal position to observe, discover, and develop the future leaders of your district. So many Rotarians have latent skills, unknown talents, hidden abilities — and these must be nurtured and given opportunities to be used for the Rotary of the future.
 
And finally, the effective district governor will be evaluated by the final performance of his or her district.

It is the ultimate concert of achievements, which are important. The kind of leadership you provide will be publicly demonstrated at your district conference. The judging of an orchestra’s performance is not the single notes of the tuba player or the second violin — it is the evaluation of the conductor’s ability to bring the parts together as seen under the microscope of excellence. That is your district conference.
 
In the next few weeks, you will be training and rehearsing your club presidents and district committee members to be ready for a new performance on 1 July. You will talk about goals and plans for the year ahead. You will have committees working on a district conference, The Rotary Foundation, membership promotion, and other dynamic programs.
 
The amazing thing will be that on 1 July, each one of you will step up to the music lectern, pick up the maestro’s baton — and your symphony will begin.
 
(As Ravel’s “Bolero” begins to play, Cliff picks up a baton and uses it as if conducting)
 
Do you hear that soloist? That is you beginning your visits to the clubs of your district. The music in the background comes from your committees. Then bring in the Interactors and Rotaractors. And over here the Youth Exchange students are added into the theme.
 
Hear that background sound? It’s the district committee considering Rotary Foundation grants. That quiet group over there is preparing for the district conference. You feel the harmony as each group performs its mission.
 
You are still making your club visits. Don’t overlook that Foundation fundraiser. Bring up the tones of the public relations committee. There is the melody of the RYLA group.
 
You are still making your club visits. The emails never stop — on and on and on. The district conference planning is getting ready. You continue the promotion for the Rotary International Convention in Seoul. Your assistant governors give you more reports.
 
Your club visits are almost ended. You still prepare materials for the district monthly newsletter. You are ready to introduce a vocational team from a matched district. You look over to see if that new club is prepared for its charter. Each section adds more to the musical theme.
 
Hear those soft notes: It’s one of your club’s plans and objectives, five months late; there is the Reach Out to Africa report; don’t overlook that 10K run for PolioPlus; get in touch with President Ravi’s representative to your district conference.
 
You can feel that crescendo in all of the activities. The tempo is picking up — more special visits; your spouse is telling you to pack for the Korea convention; more committee meetings; notes of appreciation; Paul Harris recognitions to be presented; district conference details; and more coordination with the governor-elect and -nominee.
 
You can feel the pulse of the music in your entire body! The music consumes every ounce of your energy. And then it comes to a beautiful climax ….and your symphony is over.
 
Amid the applause, you take a bow but give the real recognition to the entire orchestra. You acknowledge the soloists. And even the orchestra is applauding for your leadership skills!
 
Then comes your greatest moment. You pass the baton to the governor-elect to lead the next Symphony on the concert program.
 
That’s the cycle of Rotary. That is the task of leadership of a Rotary district. You have brought all of the divergent parts of your district committees and the club presidents into its greatest performance — because you had the leadership skills of a superior maestro.
 
As the music still rings in the air you can say: “We did it!” But your district will know that they had selected a super governor as their leader!

Copyright 2003-04 Rotary eClub NY1 * Updated 2016
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