Monday, March 11, 2024

Choir leaders: are you being too nice to your singers?

Sometimes an individual choir member needs to be told that they’re getting it wrong. 

In our attempt to not be unkind, we can sometimes end up being too nice, which is not helpful.

Too often people believe that leaders are allowed to be obnoxious and aggressive as long as they get the job done. Think of all those charismatic directors and conductors who are really not very nice people, but are tolerated because of their ‘genius’.

As choir leaders, we try not to be those people.

We try to lead firmly, but kindly; expect high standards, but never shout or demean. In short, we want to be seen as kind, compassionate leaders.

But we also need to be firm. We need to tell people exactly how it is. We have to correct singers or point out where they’re going wrong.

How can we say what we mean, without being mean? How can we be direct whilst being kind?

Because we care personally about our choir members, we often end up not being direct enough because we want to be seen as being ‘nice’. We don’t want to hurt singers’ feelings, so we don’t tell the whole truth.

But that’s not helpful. If we avoid being direct with a singer, they will never know that they’re getting things wrong. They won’t be given the opportunity to improve and develop.

We need to find a way to care personally whilst challenging our singers directly.

This is what CEO coach and author Kim Scott calls “radical candour” (and she calls being too nice “ruinous empathy”). Here she is giving a TED Talk on the subject:

Although aimed at bosses and business leaders, there are many things we can take away as choir leaders.

It is possible to be kind and direct. Let’s hope we can all find the balance!

Chris Rowbury


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