Mozart in the Nuclear Power Plant?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Does Mozart’s music deserve a place at a nuclear power plant?

Energy Northwest’s nuclear plant, the Columbia Generating Station, is the safest environment I’ve ever seen. Every precaution is taken to keep the employees protected from the omnipresent radiation. Everyone must wear a badge that monitors your exposure, protective gloves, goggles, a hard […]

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The Story Behind the Book

Thursday, November 1, 2018


As soon as I had invented The Music Paradigm in 1995 people began to ask to read about it. So I set my sights on writing a book about the powerful insights that spring to life when you see your life at work through the lens of music.

I soon discovered that […]

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What Can Serena’s Serve Teach Us?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Last Friday, I sat in Arthur Ashe Stadium watching the much anticipated US Open tennis match between Venus and Serena Williams. Only six days later, I myself was playing on an indoor tennis court in Switzerland, remodeled to accommodate a business meeting.

I was not holding a racket in my hand, but rather a […]

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The Dallas Mavericks Invite a Symphony Maestro to Lead

Friday, July 6, 2018

Ever since I invented The Music Paradigm in the mid-90s I’ve dreamt about having a sports team participate. I kept imagining all those athletes, coaches and management seated alongside professional symphony musicians, observing the array of skills that musicians and athletes share: speed, strength, coordination, performance under pressure, extreme focus on fundamentals, conditioning, trust… the […]

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Beauty vs. Safety

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I love this 2-minute video because it gets at the heart of why there is so much risk aversion in organizations. It’s very instructive to watch this rehearsal clip with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the famous Austrian conductor.  But first let me explain what you’re about to see.

There’s an especially awkward and challenging passage for the […]

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Long-term Survival? The Three Box Solution

Friday, May 6, 2016

My colleague, Vijay Govindarajan, has written a new book: The Three Box Solution. It illuminates the complexities of leadership in a time of rapid and disruptive innovation. The activities that lead to success today will likely not be relevant to the exigencies of tomorrow. And yet today’s leader is […]

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Even the Podium Has Its Blindspots

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In every Music Paradigm session I include some demonstration about how different the orchestra sounds when standing on the podium, compared to what the players hear in their chairs. From the podium the entire orchestra snaps into focus, like the pieces of a puzzle being assembled into one vibrant, coherent picture. […]

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Leadership at the Opera

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

There are many times when a conductor’s most effective direction to an orchestra is simply a straightforward instruction: “play softer here,” “take time with the triplet,” “bring out the woodwinds,” etc.

But sometimes the most beautiful results can’t be dictated by the conductor. They require an artistic partnership with the musicians […]

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Behaving Like a Multiplier

Friday, September 4, 2015

I was lucky enough to hear Liz Wiseman speak about how to be a leader who brings out the best in your people. Multipliers she calls them, as distinguished from Diminishers. One of the differentiating behaviors is that, whereas diminishers tend to tell people what to do, multipliers ask questions. […]

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Promoting Employee Engagement

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I recently had an enlightening conversation with author Timothy Clark about his book The Employee Engagement Mindset: The Six Drivers for Tapping into the Hidden Potential of Everyone in Your Company. Tim researched many companies, seeking out employees who were recognized by both their peers and bosses as being extremely […]

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Inspiration, Taking Risks, and Leadership

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

There was a revealing moment in my recent session in Rio de Janeiro, my first time working with a Brazilian orchestra.  At one point I modeled a dysfunctional conductor whose preoccupation with the movements of his baton had eclipsed his connection to the actual sound the musicians were producing.  Of course […]

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The Godfather, Part III

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Have you seen The Godfather Part III, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Al Pacino? Only an orchestra conductor with inside connections could know of the valuable lessons related to trust, leadership and eliminating layers of bureaucracy to be learned in the making of this classic film about betrayal, murder […]

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What the Ebola Crisis Can Teach Us About Leadership

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What the Ebola Crisis Can Teach Us About Leadership

“You’ve got to pick a fight with some musician,” gruffly declared my conducting teacher. “Otherwise the orchestra won’t take you seriously.” And so, once in every other rehearsal, I’d watch him attack some defenseless player. You could hear a pin drop, the […]

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New York Times article

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Click here to read the full New York Times story from Sept. 17, 2014 by James Oestreich

There’s a Lesson Here; All You Have to Do Is Listen

Roger Nierenberg and the Music Paradigm Program

I couldn’t have been […]

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Five Leadership Pointers from a Conductor

Friday, December 13, 2013

Five Leadership Pointers from a Conductor

As a young conductor I was always amazed to witness how a great maestro could so quickly have such a transforming effect on an orchestra.  Within minutes the music would come to life with a new vibrancy and spirit.  It was like magic.  I could find no other explanation […]

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Music As Inspiration

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Last week, I delivered a Music Paradigm session to a group of 140 financial services executives.  For 90 minutes they sat inside the orchestra.  Then for a half-hour we all discussed what they had experienced, and how they might put their learning to use.

Many people spoke about the magical quality of hearing live music […]

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Bernstein Inspires Innovation

Thursday, August 1, 2013

In today’s competitive business environment every company is looking to stimulate innovation. But it’s not easy, particularly for large, successful organizations where norms and conventions have taken root.

Even the symphony orchestra, which routinely plays the most thrilling masterpieces ever conceived, is still susceptible to boredom and tedium.  Indeed, without the guiding hand of an […]

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Giving the work back to people

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What does a conductor do when the orchestra is simply not playing up to its capability?

The general public’s stereotype of a maestro’s behavior in this situation is based on Arturo Toscanini, whose temper tantrums on the podium during the 1950s were legendary.  Listen, if you dare, to his rant, which climaxes in his storming […]

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Sharing a Compelling Vision

Friday, April 5, 2013

It’s rare that you get to see a spontaneous, black-and-white contrast between the effects of two different approaches to leadership. But it happened to me many years ago, and forever changed my ideas about the power of communicating vision to a workforce.

I had engaged a very good tenor to sing a beautiful Bach Cantata. […]

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Ready to Rumble?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A leader can sometimes be blind to what is obvious to everyone else.  I learned this more than 25 years ago when I guest-conducted one of the most famous American orchestras in the Rumble scene from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.

The Rumble is a violent piece, bursting with explosive, jagged syncopations. It’s tricky to […]

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The oboist's perspective

Saturday, March 23, 2013

At some point in every Music Paradigm session I ask one participant to come to the podium, stand in front of the orchestra and hold the baton in her hand. I then move her arm in such a way that the musicians can read the baton’s movements. For the participant it is an astonishing sensation: […]

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Leadership Without Authority

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How do you exercise leadership when you don’t have any authority over the people you’re supposed to lead? This is one of the most frequent challenges I hear about as I prepare to design Music Paradigm sessions. Every time I’m reminded of a story that Mark Kiefaber, the brilliant Lead Partner at Focus Leadership, LLC, […]

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The Pope on working like an orchestra

Saturday, March 2, 2013

On his last day, Pope Benedict XVI was widely quoted as saying “May the College of Cardinals work like an orchestra, where diversity — an expression of the universal church — always works toward a higher and harmonious agreement.”

I am grateful to Pope Benedict for drawing the world’s attention to the symphony orchestra. I […]

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Watching Daniele Gatti

Friday, March 1, 2013

I recently attended the dress rehearsal of the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Parsifal. I had heard great things about the conductor, Daniele Gatti, and was excited to see and hear what he’d achieved.

The Met orchestra always sounds great. But this time it seemed to speak with one voice. It was as if every musician […]

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