Singing the Praises of Strong Leadership

By Anne Tulek on April 14, 2020
Hands of musical conductor holding a baton

In a global crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, you can never have too much good leadership. For anyone under 80, this is the most intense and enduring crisis of our days. What does good crisis leadership require? To begin, it requires vision. It also requires the ability to engage others and to express empathy. It is elevated with focus, discipline, and a commitment to excellence. And when the world has come to an apparent halt, each one of us is challenged to step up and lead. How? By serving and contributing our best selves to this world in need.

This isn’t an opinion piece about policies, politics, agencies, or the World Health Organization. We have plenty of people writing those. Instead, it’s about a leader you aren’t likely to know or ever meet. It is a brief analysis of how he led a group over the last few weeks to bring amazing good to thousands over the last few days. I write it with the hope that you will be encouraged to lean into your own strengths and lead with your unique gifts, especially in the next few and likely difficult months. Here’s what this impactful leader did:

  • He had a vision. He envisioned a result he felt was achievable and knew was a stretch.
  • He engaged heads and hearts. He spoke from his head and his heart about the outcome he wanted the team to create. He didn’t just say what he wanted his team to do, but he also spoke from the heart about why, and the impact he hoped to make.
  • He showed empathy. What he asked each team member to do from their homes on their own was not easy, and in many cases the experience of creating the work product was humbling. He knew this! He—the very expert leading the way—confessed to experiencing the same challenges. He made it safe for each person to do their best and yet not be perfect.
  • He delegated and enabled strong project managers. He communicated the ultimate goal and interim goals clearly and gave everyone appropriate resources, instructions, timelines, and positive feedback.

The result was nothing short of stunning. You can see it in its entirety for yourself here:

If you didn’t click on the video to see the result, I’ll be spoiling a few things below, so you might as well check it out before reading on. I’ll note two caveats while I’m at it:

  1. This isn’t a business leader, a business situation, or a business outcome. But it’s still a great example of the impact of leadership against many odds.
  2. It involves Handel’s Messiah (specifically the Hallelujah Chorus), it was for an Easter service, and I was one of the many people involved.

Here is the breakdown:

The leader: Dr. Carey Cannon

His role: Church Minister of Music during the stay-at-home phase of the coronavirus crisis, which intersected with Holy Week and Easter

His vision: To fulfill the church’s long-standing tradition of congregational singing of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah at the end of the Easter service, even without in-person congregants

His team: The choir, made up solely of volunteers who love to sing

His delegate leaders:

Section leaders. Without their buy-in and ongoing encouragement, the project would have fallen apart. Members would have been too intimidated or focused on other priorities. (I have a degree in music and a decent voice, and I almost let fear and procrastination overtake my own submission.) Look back at the range of ages in that video! People from their 20s through their 80s learned the technology, videoed their singing, and emailed in their parts!

Vocal leaders. Four brave souls, one from each section, agreed to send their recordings out to their sections in case anyone wanted to listen along to help nail notes and rhythms.

Audiovisual Ministry leaders. These volunteers film the church services, and one of them volunteered to collect each person’s file and get them all to audio and video editor Josh Turner, who labored to create the video and compile the soundtrack.

His example: A rather remarkable faith leader, who encourages his ministry team toward creativity, excellence, and occasionally beyond their comfort zones, Dr. Steve Wells

As I watched and listened to the final product while celebrating Easter COVID-crisis-style in my living room, I was overwhelmed not just by the beautiful music. I was struck by the sheer number of people who had been willing to stretch beyond what they knew they could do to contribute to the video in the middle of such difficult days. That is what good leadership does for us: it brings the best out of regular folks so that together, something excellent—and maybe even inspiring—can occur, as you can see: