Dr. Ronald McCurdy, Professor of Music at USC and Director of the Grammy Jazz Choir and Combo

The leaders I find most interesting are those who generate great value and have an obvious joy in doing so. Enthusiasm is an underrated and at times, derided characteristic, which is a shame. Mistaking enthusiasm for foolishness or irrationality is to misunderstand it and its value. Of course, misdirected zeal can lead to poor outcomes but that is a failing of thinking rather than emotion. More often, it is a lack of emotional fuel that leaves well-laid plans languishing and leaders wondering why their strategies come to naught.

How often have you spoken to a leader about the lack of “buy in” or “commitment” from people in their organization? How much time and money is spent annually to motivate people? How many compensation studies are done to identify the illusive and mythical magic plan to get people engaged? It’s all nonsense if the leader doesn’t show enthusiasm. If the leader is not emotionally engaged in the work, why would anyone else be?

The photo above is of Dr. Ronald McCurdy, Professor of Music at the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California. Last Saturday night, I watched him lead the Grammy Jazz Choir and Combo. They were performing at the Grammy Nominee Reception. The audience, made up of 2017 Grammy Nominees and guests, were abuzz talking about this group. People moved toward the stage and watched in rapt attention. The members of the group audition via videotape and are selected by McCurdy from all over the US. The members of the group didn’t know one another until a few days before the performance but you wouldn’t have guessed that given the outstanding sound.

I listened with great joy to the performance but could not take my eyes off of the leader. His enthusiasm was infectious and the energy he radiated toward the performers, palpable. I was struck by how valuable this would be in other settings and how easily we slide into routines and tactics, forgetting why the heck we are doing what we are doing in the first place.

I had the good fortune to observe McCurdy and the Grammy Jazz Choir and Combo live and have vowed to internalize the idea that enthusiasm is not just “nice” but vital. What are you enthusiastic about? Where is the intersection of your enthusiasm, talent and strategy? You need all three to make the music, the product, the service and the place that talented people want to be.

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