How My Experience as a Composer Has Made Me a Better Leader

According to Adam Greenwood-Byrne, CEO at RealVNC, to be a successful SaaS (software as a service) business, you need to be agile, both in your approach to working and to the solutions you bring to customers. To be successful as an agile business, you need a leadership team that can navigate the different moving parts of the organisation to drive harmony across departments and projects.

Being a leader within this type of environment is much like being a composer, bringing a variety of different sounds together as one cohesive unit.

This notion of unity heavily influences how I conduct business as CEO of RealVNC. Much like an orchestra, good business works in harmony, with teams using their specific characteristics and strengths to great effect on a shared journey. Especially with high targets being set for the growth of the business, it was important to bring a sense of unity and position myself centrally as the conductor, bringing the ensemble together to the rhythm of my beat.

This drive to grow and deliver better solutions for customers involved and affected every single member of staff, and good communication and shared purpose were imperative to success. With such dramatic cross-functional cooperation, came the need for strong leadership. As this leadership style has taken effect, the business has gone from strength to strength, and last year alone we experienced 50% top line growth.

I have also had the good fortune to work with a number of exceptional conductors in my music career, and taken great inspiration from them. A good conductor must be able to simultaneously follow both the micro and the macro – to be able to identify and pinpoint a singular problem amongst the myriad instruments, noises and melodies whilst simultaneously monitoring the orchestra as a whole, ensuring that the tempo and timbre are appropriately consistent across the board. The ability to identify and understand each individual cog within the machine, whilst not losing focus of the machine as a whole, is an important balancing act that a CEO must master, whether it be an instinctive or learned trait.

This musical metaphor can also be applied to individual team hierarchies. Again, each team must operate with clearly designated roles within it, each member playing their part and in synchronisation with the others. In an orchestra we see this, with an instrumental section’s ‘first desk’ providing the top-line melody, but supported by the second and third desks etc. who very often play a different part, but in harmony, resulting in a greater contribution from the section. When all the section’s parts are performed together, they produce a unified and harmonious sound that acts as an important part of the overall orchestral texture.

I’m very fortunate at RealVNC to be surrounded by a strong leadership team who understand this. Each person brings a wealth of varied skill and experience to the company, and this balance of knowledge means that we can operate much like an orchestra, working together to achieve our joint goals, with each team member having an important and distinct role to play.

Drawing inspiration from this metaphor has enabled me to prioritise unity, visibility and cooperation across departments. I am seeking to create a culture of transparency that helps employees to recognise their value in the wider picture, which ultimately means the business can operate with greater efficiency, motivation and sense of shared purpose. Of course, finding a rhythm that works takes time, and it is our life’s work as leaders to ensure the orchestra follows this flow. It will clearly depend on the organisation’s priorities and even team structures, but once the orchestra is working in sync, it’s incredible what harmonious music can be made!

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