What is “unlocking virtuosity?”
As organizations continue to feel pressure to adapt and innovate quickly, they have no choice but to push into the unknown. Successful companies must have leaders who can demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of market disruptors, new organizational structures, and skill requirements.
Simply stated, “virtuosity” is the ability of a leader or organization to create, adapt, and thrive in today’s world of ever-accelerating volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. “Unlocking virtuosity” is about the capacity to live and guide creatively in chaos rather than to operate in a traditional mindset of trying to manage and reduce uncertainty.
As a leader, this means setting out to make sense of the experience of being in the midst of change, to focus on the essential uncertainty of participating in evolving events as they happen, and to inquire into the creative possibilities of such participation. It is improvisation, not replicating the successful strategies of the past.
Virtuoso leaders can inspire, connect, and take action to create the results they want for themselves, their teams, and organizations. It requires vision and intention, connection with human values, and discipline and skill.
My personal view on virtuosity
Leonard Bernstein, the famous symphony conductor, composer, and pianist was quoted as saying, “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” Creative virtuosity is born out of necessity and constrained by limitations.
As a young violinist early in my career, to pull off a virtuosic performance meant to work with and against the constraints of a musical composition, its chordal structure, harmonic progression, meter, and musical idiom. While these constraints provided a safe, familiar container to work within, they simultaneously limited the range of possible creative expression. Bach had to sound like Bach. But if I tried performing jazz or gypsy fiddle in the style of Bach, it wouldn’t work.
And there were other limitations always present: the time available to rehearse, the aesthetic sensibilities and skills of my artistic collaborators, the sound of my instrument, my mood and physical energy level, the acoustical properties, and ambient air temperature and humidity of the concert venue. The list goes on and on.
Yet working with and against these very constraints opened up opportunities to go deeper, allowing virtuosity to emerge. And, what resulted from this? In my experience I found four ways I could express my virtuosity: (1) by modifying or refining the execution of a piece of music, (2) by creating a bold, visionary ideal for an audacious new project, (3) by exploring new musical landscapes by expanding my acoustical palette through digital sound manipulation, and (4) experimenting with the synergy of disparate and novel collaborations with other musicians, artists, poets, and dancers.
How does virtuosity show up in business?
Just like a virtuoso violinist, the virtuoso business leader must be able to achieve desired outcomes and superior results, when given only a plan and not enough time, resources, or knowledge. Navigating within and against these constraints means working within the dynamic tension between organizational effectiveness and human potential, between efficiency and innovation, between operational excellence and curious exploration.
The effective way out in managing a team or organization amid change often finds itself through: (1) acknowledging what is working and the most important next step to take, (2) what the ideal, long-term goal is they are trying to reach, (3) where opportunities can be found to be flexible and unique, and (4) where trial and error can be successful.
If you would like to explore how unlocking virtuosity can help you achieve higher levels of performance, I welcome you to schedule a complimentary call.