Leading Mozart

He was arguably the greatest composer who has ever lived. He wrote over 600 scores during his short 35 year life span. He was performing advanced piano works before kings at the age of five. He was more than a prodigy; he was a musical genius. As a teenager, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once heard a full opera performed in the Sistine Chapel; then went home and copied it completely from memory, including the parts played by each instrument in the orchestra.

His operas — like The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni are among the most beloved operas ever written. It has been over 200 years since his death and his music continues to be heard and loved. His music was used in such diverse modern movies as Alien, JFK, Star Trek, A Beautiful Mind, The Associate and Shawshank Redemption.

He was a spoiled brat, largely due to the indulgence of his father and early teacher, Leopold. What little money he made, he squandered on fancy clothes and all-night parties. When his boss, the Archbishop of Vienna, forbid the play “The Marriage of Figaro” from being used as a backdrop for an opera because it was deemed licentious, Mozart composed the comic opera anyway. When the use of ballet in an opera was forbidden, he defied the order and included the dance. His actions seemed less about rebellion and more about artistic license and the pursuit of his vision. Mozart died after a long illness, completely penniless, in 1791 with few mourners save his wife, two sons, and friends.

What would you do if you had a Mozart working for you? All “Mozart’s” have common noble traits — brilliant, visionary, perfectionists and passionately driven. They can also be mercurial, extremely bull-headed, egotistical, irreverent and once in a while borderline crazy. They don’t rebel against policies; they just disregard them.

“Mozart’s” ask tough questions that can make mediocre performers feel inadequate. They ignore tidy rules of corporate civility in pursuit of their bold visions. They poke around in areas outside their sandbox and beyond their pay grades. While most “Mozart’s” would get an A in creativity, their impatience with corporate diplomacy nets them an F in “emotional intelligence.” Their zeal and drive is often misinterpreted as their being simply noisy and stubborn. They try most leaders’ patience and embarrass their team members seeking to make a good impression.

Every innovative organization needs a few “Mozart’s.” They can make us better and more vigorous. Sure, they are complex, challenging, and downright difficult. But, they can springboard the organization to greatness. Of course they can make us wring our hands and shake our head. They can also ensure our advancement and competitiveness. Remember: how you treat the “Mozart’s” can telegraph to the rest of the organization how much you really value the untraditional thinking needed for innovation.

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