Monday, January 23, 2023

The good enough choir leader

We all aim to do the best we can. But if we wait until we’re perfect, we’ll never get anything done!

photo by Rich Bowen

It’s OK to be “good enough” at what we do. Here’s why.

The phrase "good enough mother" was first coined in 1953 by Donald Winnicott, a British paediatrician and psychoanalyst. Winnicott observed thousands of babies and their mothers, and he came to realise that babies and children actually benefit when their mothers fail them in manageable ways.

In fact, only being “good enough” is unavoidable, since it’s impossible to ever be perfect.

This same idea can apply to the role of choir leader.

Letting go of the idea of perfection is liberating. But also we need to realise that even if we were perfect, we would be doing our singers a disservice.

If we are “good enough”, then we mostly get things right, and sometimes get things wrong. Not only are we demonstrating that we are merely human (and not a guru or cult leader), but we are also giving our singers space to make their own mistakes and to learn.

Each time we get things wrong or aren’t being perfect, our singers get through it and come out the other side stronger. They also begin to realise their own strengths and don’t end up relying totally on their choir leader.

This is especially important when we’re starting out as choir leaders. Any small mistake we make can be more proof that we’re not really any good. Every time something goes wrong, it’s more evidence that we’re not up to the job.

But if we let ourselves off the hook and simply do the best we can, then everyone benefits.

Your human errors will bring your singers onside. They will end up supporting you and trusting you since most of the time you will get things right. And none of your singers will probably want your responsibilities any way — your job is safe!

So let’s carry on “failing our singers in manageable ways”!

other posts

You might find these older posts of interest too:

Choir leaders, are you doing too much for your singers?

Revealing your humanity as choir leader or singer will bring people on your side


Chris Rowbury


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