We have all been there . . . that “musical director” or “bandleader” telling everyone how and what to do at every turn. It gets to the point where you second guess everything because you feel as though they will most likely override any decision you would ever make. Honestly, after a while, you start asking yourself, “What is the point anymore?”
Dealing with micromanagement in any setting isn’t fun, however, in music … it can get downright nasty. We have talked about ways to manage your fellow musicians when you are in a position of leadership in past posts. But what if you are a cog in the wheel, and you’re working underneath someone who refuses to let a product breathe and tells everyone else how to do their job? Let’s discuss . . .
While I’m sure psychologists have traced the roots of micromanagement to some kind of OCD problem, it seems that a good deal of the issue lies in the desire for power and lack of trust. Power in a musical setting has to be handled with the greatest of respect because in many professional circles, everyone is an A-lister and can play/work at a pro level. Micromanagers do not have this respect nor do they care to. In their eyes, leadership is telling folks what to do on every level. Plain and simple. No opinion counts except for their own. While the following may seem like bad advice, the one good thing about micromanagement is that you have plausible deniability. As long as you do what you’re told, when it blows up in their face (and it will), it rests completely on their shoulders, not yours. Short of firing someone (not always an option) or bringing it to a higher level, there isn’t always a lot you can do. The positive thing is that folks like this don’t last very long, especially in music. People that refuse to let music and its musicians breathe eventually fail miserably. What goes around comes around.
In contrast, what about macro-management? Everyone is familiar with the micro version but I don’t think macro is discussed nearly enough. This form of management involves looking at the product or goal in broad strokes, harnessing the abilities of your folks, and understanding/respecting the individual and what they bring to the table. A good macro-manager will shape the group environment to ensure the goal is reached without hand-holding. This type of environment also fosters trust between group members as well as trust between the members and the leader. Unlike micromanagement, it is transparent and can be behind the scenes of an extremely high performance group of people. I would venture to say that in most cases, the best groups you will ever be in will be managed in this way. There will be a defined goal to which you will be able to contribute your abilities, and when that goal is met, everyone wins. Above everything, your abilities will be respected and utilized as a contribution to the product.
Here is the truth though, I have been in both of the above situations and you will find yourself in both at some point as well. The key is to adjust accordingly for the situation you find yourself in, and learn from it. Always learn and remember those lessons when you are in a leadership position.
I would love to hear about your band/music management stories! Please share and discuss!