What would ___ do? Finding yourself through your heroes.

Musicians often suffer from stage fright, and I am no exception. Any split-second decision that you make on stage can have repercussions for other members of the group, and might even impact your ability to complete the performance. In grad school, my professor challenged me to tackle this by “removing myself” from the equation, asking me to spend time imitating my heroes when I played. Each day I would pick a different musician, listen to their phrasing, hear the way that they speak in interviews, and watch their posture and presence on stage. I would then try to “walk the day in their shoes.” Over the course of several months, certain traits of different performers became my own. I grew as a musician, and found new confidence on stage through knowing that my style and decisions have been shaped by those whom I admire.

Directly emulating another in the workplace might be forced and unwise, but perhaps as we explore leadership, we too could benefit from this lesson. Think of role models whose style you admire and whose values reflect your own. How might they react and respond to the challenges that you face in a given day? If you were to spend one day each week pausing to reflect on how another individual would approach each situation, who would be on your list?

A few at the top of mine:

  1. My secondary school headmaster. He approached every situation with kindness and his expectations were crystal clear.
  2. The Dean of Academics and Student Affairs at the Eastman School of Music. Her relentless pursuit of creative solutions that served each constituent was astonishing. Her ideas never seemed implausible or “out of the box,” but she seemed to make the box much larger.
  3. My sister. She is honest and not afraid to show her frustrations, but always remains level-headed and objective.


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