Use your opportunities: German orchestras are improving communication and leadership

For many organisations, but particular in the cultural industries, people are the most important resource. Yet while working conditions have changed profoundly over time, the management of many orchestras is still based on structures dating back to the 19th century. Orchestras need a strong case for new approaches to communication, organisation and leadership that understand the active integration of staff as central to institutional success. While there is now greater openness for improved internal communications, there is still resistance to interventions such as coaching and mediation.
In Germany it is the aim of the network “Der gute Ton” (“Good Form”), organized by Ralf Pegelhoff and other professional musicians, to address these issues. Independently run, it seeks to offer workshops and talks, conflict counselling and a platform for informal exchanges. Institutional communication is complex, running on verbal as well as non-verbal levels and often insufficiently reflected upon. Openness for discussion, if need be through mediation, based on mutual appreciation is seen as a principal means for the resolution and prevention of conflicts. It is noted that these aspects of leadership are still neglected during professional musical training.

The “culture of communication” was the subject of a conference in March 2010, organised by the Federal Academy of Cultural Education in Wolfenbüttel (Germany), which attracted great interest. It brought together professional mediators, but also representatives of the associations of German orchestras and theatres, orchestra managers and musicians as well as executives of private companies.