Resource List

Building Regenerative Communities: Strength in Collaboration

From the Introduction

Our intention in creating the guide is to facilitate conversations which promote deeper understanding, trust and community within and between organizations. We feel that such interaction may lead people to discover ways to collaborate that foster associative endeavors, perhaps discovering ways to share resources to support each others work.

The Guide provides a starting point for calling a circle and highlights a variety of tools from which to choose for setting up conversations. It contains several case studies which provide the content to initiate conversation. There are additional web, print and video resources to inspire and urge participants into deep discussion around themes of regenerative communities, associative economics and cultural renewal.

It is given freely and may be shared broadly. It may be posted on websites to encourage its availability.  ~ Mary Christenson and Marianne Fieber, June 2014

Download the guide here:   Building Regenerative Communities_Conversation and Resource

Sustainability: Associative Economics

1. Associative Economics

 The idea behind associative economics arose from the work and insights of Rudolf Steiner in 1922 through his work with the first Waldorf School, and in a series of lectures on economics. Steiner’s visionary capacity brought to light a new imagination about economic life and money; that consciousness applied to the nature of transactions in the conduct of financial life would allow us to transform our relationships with each other and with money and provide a new basis for transforming the entire economic system. Understanding this is essential in the development of a school. In the attached articles by Warren Ashe, Siegfried Finser and Werner Glas, authors share important insights on the effect on school finances of seeing tuition in a new light.  Going further, John Bloom in an interview segment from the film The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner, and in his book The Genius of Money, offers insights into the realm of social finance and Steiner’s ideas. Christopher Houghton Budd has numerous publications and research on Associative Economics on his website that goes even deeper into the realm of Associative Economics. And lastly, Gary Lamb offers in his book on Associative Economics, an excellent treatment of the background, history, details and practical applications of Associative Economic thinking for schools. To be familiar with this book and these ideas will help every school leader work with financial matters in a new way.


EconomicExplorations-Ch 2- Three Kinds of Money - W Ashe

EconomicExplorations-CH 1- Underlying Themes - W Glas

Associative Economics Gary Lamb, AWSNA

Center for Associative Economics Website

The Genius of Money, John Bloom

 Interview with John Bloom and Martin Large in The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner

From Co-Creation to Association by John Bloom

This is a continuation from the article Seven Keys to Sustainability in the April 2014 LeadTogether Newsletter.



...there is what happens to the speaker when he is fortunate to be listened to perceptively.  Another kind of miracle takes place in him, perhaps best described as a springtime burgeoning.  Before his idea was expressed to a listener, it lived in his soul as potential only; it resembles a seed force lying fallow in the winter earth.  To be listened to with real interest acts upon this seed like sun and warmth and rain and other cosmic elements that provide growth-impetus; the soul ground in which the idea is embedded comes magically alive.   - Marjorie Spock

Training Opportunities for Waldorf School Organization and Leadership: Summer 2014

Here are a few good opportunities for individuals to gain skills important to their work in the schools. Check out each of these interesting workshops:


Waldorf School Leadership and Governance Seminar

Saturday, June 28 to Thursday, July 3, 2014, Hawthorne Valley, Ghent, NY

With Christopher Schaefer, Ph.D. and Marti Stewart. Christopher Schaefer is cofounder of the Hawthorne Valley Center for Social Research and for many years a faculty member and development director at Sunbridge Institute. Marti Stewart is the long-time administrator of the City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis.

Waldorf schools work with a new pedagogy based on a holistic, age-appropriate image of child development. They also practice a new form of community life in which teachers, administrative staff and parents are partners in developing the community of the school. The working together of these three groups in the life of the school requires insight, social sensitivity and competence so that the school can be healthy and best serve the needs of the children. These one week professional development seminars offer teachers, administrators, board members and parents an opportunity to reflect on and work with the challenges of building a Waldorf school community that is vibrant, innovative and effective while honoring the unique contributions of each member of the community. Each seminar can be taken individually but, when taken in sequence, the series will build a deeper capacity for serving the community impulse of Waldorf education.

The seminars are based on the successful certificate and Master’s Program in Waldorf school administration and community development offered at Sunbridge College between 1993-2008 as well as the more recent seven-week part-time course offered in China for the burgeoning Chinese Waldorf school movement.


  1. School Leadership in Waldorf School Communities
  2. Models of Governance: the Roles of Faculty, Staff, Board and Parents
  3. Working Together in Groups and Communities
  4. Phases of School Development
  5. School Renewal.

Each day of the seminar will consist of a presentation, casework, exercises, drama and role-play and a seminar on inner development.

For more information click HERE.


Threefold Social Ideals & Spirituality in Waldorf Education - Part II

July 7- 11, 2014, Waldorf Institute of S. California, Highland Hall School, Northridge, CA.

With Patrice Maynard, Leader of Waldorf Publications, former class teacher, former AWSNA Leader of Outreach and Development

The Revolution continues!  The imagination of social structures as living beings, the view of human spiritual development in different stages of consciousness, the revolutionary educational forms in Waldorf education are all reflective of the “realrevolution”: the one that begins in each of us.  We will continue the study of the threefold social organism (and the Inner Aspect of the Social Question lectures*), applying it to teaching through “social threefolding” - in the curriculum, in our classrooms, our faculty interactions, and all-school structures.  We will use existing structures from your schools - classrooms, faculty meetings, and all-school meetings - to identify opportunities along the path to aligning our education authentically with the spirit of our age.  Singing, role-playing and Eurythmy will expand our experience.


For more information click HERE


Personal and Organizational Renewal: From Survival to Success

June 29-July 4, 2014, High Mowing School, Wilton, NH

With Torin Finser, and Leonore Russell. Torin Finser is Chair of the Education Department at Antioch University New England and General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in America. Leonore Russell is a eurythmist and consultant for organizational change.

Schools face many challenges today. “Peeling the onion,” one finds that behind external issues of deficits, low salaries, interpersonal conflict, and lack of support for leadership there is often an underlying need to rekindle the sources of inspiration and find a more collaborative approach. By bringing together the various groups represented in a typical school, this course attempts to model new ways of working together.

Our classrooms feature the magic of seeing the “whole child”; can our organizations learn to embrace whole-systems thinking?

This course is for parents, teachers, administrators, and board members interested in school renewal. Topics will include: group dynamics, leadership styles, the wisdom of human physiology and the planets, working with conflict, communication, mediation, artistic practice, and finding the balance between personal and professional demands. These themes will be supported through exercises from “Eurythmy in the Workplace.”

Participants will take up some of the current issues facing their schools and design strategies to work toward closer collaboration.

For more information click HERE.


Collaborative Leadership: Personalized Strategies for Effective Planning, Problem-Solving, and Decision-Making

July 20-25, 2014, Sunbridge Institute, Spring Valley, NY

With Joachim Ziegler, PhD, Organizational Development and Leadership Consultant and Jessica Heffernan Ziegler, Executive Director, Sunbridge Institute

Are you a teacher, faculty or section chair, administrator, board member, director, staffer, or key volunteer in a Waldorf school or other non-profit workplace? Do you serve on an administrative committee, sit on the college of teachers, or play another leadership role? No matter what your individual position is in your organization, if you participate in a planning or problem-solving process, you have leadership responsibilities. In this highly useful course for decision-makers who work in Waldorf schools or other non-profit settings, our focus is on practical work. Through a process imbued with the anthroposophical understanding of the human being, and successfully applied in organizations from multi-million dollar nationals to Waldorf schools, you will learn how to improve your effectiveness as a member of your team.

Each participant is asked to bring to the course his or her own organizational question, project, or challenge. Using these real-life cases, we will apply these five core models for collaborative leadership:

Three main leadership tasks (maintaining and creating identity / creating space for healthy, stable relationships / assuring professional results)

Diagnostic and planning tools: how to look at the organization as a whole and understand the dynamics of intersecting segments

How to create processes toward healthy decision-making

The balance between power and trust

Models for negotiation and conflict

Your course takeaway will be an individualized action plan for the question, project, or challenge you have brought with you, along with an understanding of the necessary skill set with which to execute it.

For more information click HERE.


The following three workshops are being offered at the

Summer AWSNA Conference June 23-26, 2014,

at the Hartsbrook School in Amherst, MA.

Check out these and other workshops at the conference HERE.


“Making Decisions, Taking Action, Getting Results: Transparent leadership and self-governance in a Waldorf school from student council through faculty, collegium, administration, and operations”

With Cary Hughes, Rea Taylor, John Buck

Through presentation and hands-on activities, explore and experience implementing a new pragmatic approach to school governance that successfully embraces the philosophical underpinnings of Steiner’s Threefold Social Order and uses proven effective self-governance principles and clearly defined processes and protocols which result in an elegant and effective operating structure. Cary Hughes is the humanities teacher and dean of students at High Mowing School. He has been teaching for more than 30 years. As the mentor of High Mowing School’s student council, he guides and supports students as they create and participate in student government using the principles and practices of self-governance. John Buck, co-author of “We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy,” and head of Governance Alive LLC, has extensive leadership experience with government, non-profits, and corporations. John is certified in circle-organization method of governance called “Dynamic Self-Governance” and has been working with High Mowing School for the past 30 years. Rea Taylor Gill is the executive director at High Mowing School and author of A School as a Living Entity. Over the past 25 years, Rea has developed a revolutionary approach to organizational development and school structure and has successfully guided High Mowing School in the implementation of a replicable, effective governance, and operating structure.


 “Building Regenerative Communities”

With Mary Christiansen

Can Rudolf Steiner’s ideas for the renewal of social life stimulate creative new approaches to our school’s resource needs? What is a regenerative community in the context of a Waldorf school? Participants will examine several ways to facilitate group conversations working with these questions. Mary also will present an online Conversation Resource Guide and offer hands-on practice in small groups around a topic from the guide such as associative economics or conscious threefolding.

Mary Christenson is the Development Director at the Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School where she has served for 20 years. She has a certificate in Waldorf School Administration and Community Building from Sunbridge College. She was DANA regional coordinator for 10 years, and board member of the Viroqua Chamber-Main Street Program for 10 years. She is co-author of an online book, “Building Regenerative Communities – A Conversation and Resource Guide.”


 “LeadTogether: The dynamics of leadership, governance and community building in a collaborative organization”

With Michael Soule

Collaboration was a radical form in the first Waldorf school and is no less so today. We are only beginning to realize its potential as a key to organizational health. How do we foster individual leadership in our schools, get beyond the usual organizational conflicts, and discover what Waldorf pedagogy offers for adult development? Participants will deepen their understanding of organizational dynamics, assess their own collaborative skills, and explore current research. This workshop is beneficial for parents, trustees, staff, and faculty.

Michael is a trained Waldorf teacher with an M.A. in Waldorf Education. He has been a class teacher, movement teacher, school administrator, board member, AWSNA regional representative, and Leader of programs and activities for AWSNA. He is currently the leader of the online collaborative community, Leadtogether.


Sustainability Resources

Resources for Sustainability

Dear Colleagues,

This month’s newsletter focuses on the theme of Sustainability and explores the question, “How can our schools become more sustainable in an economic environment that is growing more competitive and uncertain?” The lead article is a survey of the question and the second article, Seven Keys to Sustainability, outlines areas that require everyone’s attention as we move forward in planning for and responding to the future.

There are a lot of resources available on this important topic. We have included a few in the newsletter that we feel are informative and creative aspects of the whole. Below, we are sharing a list of the other related resources we have added to our resource library. We hope you find them useful and inspiring.

Michael Soule




The Genius of Money, John Bloom

Associative Economics, Gary Lamb

Freeing the Circling Stars, Christopher Houghton Budd

Economic Explorations, David Mitchell et al

Freeing the Human Spirit, Michael Spence


National School Choice Report for 2013

School Choice and Educational Freedom 2009, Gary Lamb

Waldorf Fundraising 101, AWSNA


The Three Kinds of Money, Warren Ashe

The Benefits and Challenges of Government Funding for Australian Schools, Tracey Puckeridge

Waldorf School Funding, from the Social Mission of Waldorf Education, Gary Lamb

Accessible Tuition for All, a review by Barbara Henderson

Accessible Tuition for All Primer, Bob Munson and Mary Roscoe

Underlying Themes in the Economics of Waldorf Schools, Werner Glas

Intimations of a New Economy, John Bloom

Waldorf Tuition: Gift or investment or Something In-between, by George Eastman

Three Tier Tuition Model of Brooklyn Waldorf School



RSF Social Finance

Associative Economics

Center for Social Renewal

Alliance for School Choice


Economics and Social Initiatives, interview with John Bloom and Martin Large from the film “The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner”


Forming School Communities, The Renewal of the Social Organism, M Karutz, AWSNA

 Forming School Communities - Contents Intro - Mathiaas Krutz


Forming School Communities - Renewal of the Social Organism - Contents Intro - Mathiaas Krutz


Review and Comments on “Collaborative Leadership”, an article by Arnoud DeMeyer of Cambridge, UK, about the trends affecting modern day organizations and the need for collaboration.

Review and Comments on “Collaborative Leadership”, an article by Arnoud DeMeyer of Cambridge, UK, about the trends affecting modern day organizations and the need for collaboration.

Review and comments (in blue) by Michael Soule. LeadTogether2014

This article by Arnoud DeMeyer from 2009 provides readers a deeper understanding of the trends in business and culture that are affecting the need for collaborative work in organizations. While the article is focused at a global scale, the insights De Meyer’s shares are relevant to our school movement. His introduction could easily be a description of the new qualities we need in school leadership. In the article, he also warns that the current definitions and literature about leadership are often conflicting or incoherent and popular approaches to how to prepare the coming generation of leaders (in our case young teachers) are inadequate. De Meyer points to the need to help young leaders develop new capacities for meeting and adapting to change. And while this premise is not new, he proposes that developing skills and competencies for collaboration are essential if our institutions are going to survive and thrive.

Leadership is often defined as the capability to successfully manage change in organizations. The way one manages change is to some extent contextual and influenced by the environment. The environment our future leaders have to operate in is quite different from what we were used to in the previous decade. Leadership styles therefore need adaptation.  ADM

De Meyer outlines 8 major shifts in culture that he believes are central to the need for new collaborative leadership. These are below with notes from me about their relevance to work in our schools:

What is changing in our environment?

De Meyer posits that the environment in which we need to innovate and implement change has changed dramatically. He attributes the changes to the following eight megatrends: (The trends are his, the comments are mine.)

1. Globalization

 As the world is becoming more and more diverse, our communities, our schools and ideas about education and schooling are also becoming ever more diverse. This requires us to have more strategies for dealing with diverse needs and ideas, not only from our children and parents but also from our colleagues and staff.

2. Fragmentation of the value chain (in school terms: More groups and volunteers taking on important tasks in the operation of the school)

It is not a matter of getting committees to do what the faculty or board dictates but letting smaller groups have more autonomy. This requires a greater degree than ever of values sharing and agreement. The more we use volunteers in important roles, the more orientation is needed. The more groups in the school, the more communication and alignment are needed. Every time we form a new group or accept a new child and family or hire a new teacher additional alignment is needed.

3. More knowledge workers (more specialists than generalists)

EC, Grade and HS teachers are drifting further apart as they become specialists in their pedagogical areas.  This presents increasing challenges for creating a sense of the whole. The school begins to operate more in parts and more and more energy is needed to keep the whole focused on a singular goal.

4. The increasing demands (and skepticism) of society (of Parents)

 Changing family demographics (more families with only one child, more older parents, more single parents, more parental pressure on children to succeed) requires teachers not only to be good pedagogical masters but also to be well versed on the vast array of new educational ideas and communication tools to deal with more involved and demanding parents.

We are coming out of a period in which teachers and schools were revered more than they are today. In the future, our teachers will increasingly need to justify their approach and actions to increasingly skeptical parents.  Adult education about the education will be increasingly important.

5. Dispersion of the sources of knowledge and innovation

In the future, more and more people will know more and more about the pedagogy and the operation of the school.  At the same time, schools will have faculties where the knowledge and experience base is more dispersed among colleagues.  The cohesion of the central group and its capacity to involve wider and wider circles will be more and more essential.

6. Changes in the structure of multinationals (from pyramidal to collections of networks)

 The challenge of having more administrative staff, educational support staff, cooperative groups, committees and networks in the school will require more attention to communication.  Intergroup collaboration will become more and more important.

7. Increased importance of risk management (considering the dynamics of actions and looking ahead)

In a non-hierarchical organization, the management of risks requires a lot of attention. As decision-making is more distributed, the small effects of minor mess-ups in different realms, for whatever reason, will undermine the trust that is essential for community building. We all will be tasked to listen more acutely and respond more quickly to people’s reactions to small mistakes.

8. The increase of social networking and information overload

The challenges of managing the school are greatly increasing by the demand for more and more, quicker and quicker information by parents about what is happening with their children and in the school as a whole. This, plus the proliferation of the Internet, email and texting capabilities -- and the subsequent weakened personal connection -- will be important challenges. We already know that more emails easily leads to weaker personal connections.

The new collaborative leader (in our terms, collegial leader)

 DE Meyer’s trends are general and interrelated but they can easily be seen to be active in our schools. Because Waldorf schools have been practicing collaborative operation longer than most organizations, we already have incorporated a lot of innovative and creative solutions.  We have trained ourselves gradually through practice. Our schools continue to be works in progress.  Therefore, by recognizing these challenges brought by emerging trends can help us understand when our actions are not successful.

DE Meyer’s goes on to write about the four areas that he believes are necessary for every individual to work on to meet these trends and practices that could help.




Influencing (What I would call Reality and Insight based decisioning)

Adaptability (Embracing and working with ambiguity)



Getting the right mindset (having the right imagination)

It is about understanding that others have capabilities and are prepared to share these with you in order to achieve change and innovation.  It is learning how to work on an equal basis with others. It is about being prepared to make the investments in relationships. It requires being prepared to recognize peers’ contribution. By good communication practices and value alignment, people can grow to appreciate that one can accomplish much more in a collaborative environment than alone.


Reducing transaction costs (managing the amount of time energy needed to work out of collaboration)

In the long run, collaboration, like consensus saves time and energy, but in the process one must be willing to appreciate the ways in which slower processes facilitate the building of stronger community and more overall value throughout the organization.

Working beyond the borders of the organization (continually building the relationship between the organization and the community)

Building consensus (inclusive advancement)

One of the risks of a more collaborative organization is that values begin to decrease towards the least common denominator and overall the organization loses vitality. It is essential that paths be found to renew the highest values of a school.

5. Ability to network

Everyone involved in the organization will be called upon to become more social in the process. Our schools already have a very social model, but it will be important that the social working within groups and between groups is genuine and regularly renewed.


6. Managing polarities

 Real collaborative work requires a new emphasis on embracing differences and identifying, understanding and embracing polarities. (Work / life, parent as partner/consumer, school as business/cultural endeavor)

About the author

Arnoud DE MEYER is the President of Singapore Management University. Previously Professor of Management Studies at the University of Cambridge (UK) and Director of Judge Business School. He was also a visiting professor at the Universities of Kiel (Germany), Ghent and Antwerp (Belgium) and Waseda and Keio University (Japan).


Find the original article here Collaborative Leadership A D 2009 final

The Conductor less Orchestra, H Seifter



by Harvey Seifter

Institute, No.21, Summer 2001


Tapping into the unique skills of knowledge workers requires leaders to adopt new ways of thinking and to apply new models of organization to the workplace. According to Harvard business professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter in Executive Excellence, "Your structures should be very loose and very flexible: less hierarchy, more opportunity for people to play many different roles. Sometimes you may be a team leader, and at other times you may be a team member. Also, be very flexible with respect to titles, and very fluid in terms of moving people from project to project, depending on the requirements. And be very project oriented, rather than fixed-job oriented."Knowledge workers are not limited to the world of high-tech, New Economy business. They are found in every industry and every business and, as Peter Drucker has pointed out, in some surprising places -- including symphony orchestras. And one orchestra in particular -- New York City-based Orpheus Chamber Orchestra -- has become a model for Kanter's new kind of loose and flexible organization.Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is an orchestra with a difference: it has no conductor. The group was founded in 1972 by cellist Julian Fifer and a small group of like-minded musicians with the goal of bringing the chamber music ideals of democracy, personal involvement, and mutual respect into an orchestral setting. In an interview with Ron Lieber in Fast Company (May 2000, p. 286), Fifer stated, "I loved chamber music's clarity of sound and flexibility of temperament. I wanted to bring that camaraderie and spirit into a larger setting. And in order for everyone to be able to communicate more effectively, it seemed necessary to do without a conductor." Orpheus, widely considered to be one of the world's great orchestras, comprises 27 permanent members -- employees who cannot be fired -- and a number of substitute players who fill in where necessary, as well as a board of trustees and administrative management.

In most orchestras, the conductor directly supervises each musician; the conductor not only decides what music will be played but how it will be played as well. There is little room for the opinions or suggestions of the musicians themselves; such input is rarely solicited and even less often welcomed. Like workers reporting to an autocratic manager, orchestral musicians are expected to unquestioningly follow the direction of the conductor -- anything less invites humiliation before one's colleagues and may be grounds for immediate dismissal.

As a result, orchestral musicians are a notoriously unhappy class of employees. Paul Judy reports that when Harvard Business School professor J. Richard Hackman studied job attitudes among people working in 13 different job groups, he discovered that symphony orchestra musicians ranked below prison guards in job satisfaction. Further, when asked about their satisfaction with opportunities for career growth, symphony orchestra musicians fared even worse, ranking 9th out of the 13 surveyed job categories. Clearly, although the results of an orchestral performance can be exceptionally uplifting, the means of attaining these results are often anything but uplifting to those whose job it is to achieve them.

In place of the traditional fixed leadership position of conductor, Orpheus has developed a unique system of collaborative leadership that invites every member of the orchestra to participate in leadership positions, either leading the group in rehearsal and performance as concertmaster, or by leading one of the orchestra's many different formal or informal teams. This system is extremely flexible -- musicians freely move in and out of positions of leadership -- and it can be used to quickly adapt to changing conditions in the marketplace or within the group itself.

This free flow of leadership positions within the group encourages all the members of the orchestra to give their personal best performance. Cellist Eric Bartlett says, "When there's an important concert, everybody feels it, and everybody goes into it doing their absolute best work, giving it their utmost concentration, playing off of each other, and making sparks fly. For the most part, in a conducted orchestra, you play a more passive role. Not only is less expected of you, but less is expected from you. You have to play extremely well, but you're not playing off of your colleagues -- you're playing off of that one person in front of the orchestra holding the baton. I don't see that people in regular orchestras are emotionally involved in the same way. Everybody plays well, they do a very good job, but the level of individual emotional involvement isn't there."

With no conductor to act as a filter to the what and the why behind the group's decisions, the members of Orpheus are uncommonly energized and responsive to the needs of the organization and to the desires of its leaders. Turnover is extremely low and employee loyalty is extremely high. The result is a better product, increased customer satisfaction, and a healthier bottom line.

Principles of Orpheus Leadership

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has labeled its system of collaborative leadership the "Orpheus Process." While the process is not without its difficulties -- getting 27 talented and strong-willed people to agree to anything can often be a very real challenge -- it has served the group well over the past three decades and it continues to evolve to meet the needs of the orchestra and its customers: the listening public. This process, detailed in the accompanying sidebar, is built on a foundation of eight principles:

1. Put power in the hands of the people doing the work.

In recent years, company leaders have heard a common refrain: organizations that empower their workers with true authority and responsibility can expect better products and services, more satisfied customers, and increased revenue and profits. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that many managers have been slow to give up power, in many cases withholding it altogether. According to a Gallup poll of 1,200 U.S. workers, while 66 percent of respondents reported that their managers asked them to get involved in decision making within their organizations, only 14 percent of these same workers reported that they felt they had actually been given real authority.

According to double-bass player Don Palma, a member since the group's founding in 1972, the difference between working in Orpheus and working in a traditional orchestra is dramatic. Says Palma, "I took one year off from Orpheus at the very beginning and went to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I just hated it. I didn't like to be told what to do all the time, being treated like I wasn't really worth anything other than to be a good soldier and just sit there and do as I was told. I felt powerless to affect things, particularly when they were not going well. I felt frustrated, and there was nothing I could seem to do to help make things better. Orpheus keeps me involved. I have some measure of participation in the direction the music is going to take. I think that's why a lot of us have stayed involved for so long."

Unlike most orchestras, whose conductors wield full and unquestioned authority over the musicians playing under their baton, Orpheus musicians decide for themselves who will lead the group, how a piece of music will be played, who will be invited to join their ranks, and who will represent them on the board of trustees and within management. The group's administrators do not impose their vision on the musicians, and disagreements that cannot be resolved through Orpheus's regular process of discussion and consensus-building are ultimately settled by a vote of all of the members of the orchestra.

2. Encourage individual responsibility for product and quality.

Because Orpheus has no conductor and therefore no single person to take responsibility for the quality of its performances, each member of the orchestra feels a very real and personal responsibility for the group's outcomes. Orpheus gives every individual the opportunity to lead, but it also creates an imperative that everyone pull together. Instead of focusing solely on perfecting their own approach to performance, each musician takes a personal interest in perfecting the performances of their colleagues and the overall sound of the orchestra. It is therefore not uncommon for a violinist to comment on the playing of a flutist, or the timpani player to comment on a cellist's approach to phrasing or bowing. In a regular, conducted orchestra, not only would such crossing of organizational lines be unwelcome, it would be unthinkable.

3. Create clarity of roles.

While leadership within Orpheus is not fixed with any one particular person or position, the organization's members have clear roles in addition to their jobs as musicians, administrators, or members of the board of trustees. For each piece of music, for example, the musicians elect one person to serve as concertmaster, the person appointed to lead the group in rehearsal and performance. Some members of the orchestra serve on the board, others represent the musicians within the group's administration, and still others participate in formal and informal teams. All roles are communicated widely throughout the organization.

4. Foster horizontal teamwork.

Says Peter Drucker, "No knowledge ranks higher than another; each is judged by its contribution to the common task rather than by any inherent superiority or inferiority. Therefore, the modern organization cannot be an organization of boss and subordinate. It must be organized as a team."

Because no one person has all the answers to every question that may arise within the orchestra, Orpheus relies on horizontal teams -- both formal and informal -- to tap the expertise of all of its members. These teams are horizontal because members are not artificially limited to focusing their attention on only very narrow issues or opportunities; members of teams within Orpheus naturally reach across organizational boundaries to obtain input, act on opportunities, solve problems, or make decisions. Says violinist Martha Caplin, "We're all specialists, that's the beginning of the discussion. When I talk to another performer or another musician in the group, it's on an equal level. It's absolutely crucial that we all have that attitude."

Leaders should be aware that not every team is an effective team, and they must work to ensure that the members of teams take positive steps to ensure their own effectiveness. John Lubans, deputy university librarian at Duke University, has studied Orpheus's workings, and in a report published in the Duke University Libraries Information Bulletin in 1997, he cites a variety of reasons for why teamwork is effective within the group. He notes that the purpose and mission for the team are clear and understood by each team member; members' team roles are stated, agreed upon, and understood; all members work an equal amount doing real work in the team; members pay attention to how they work together; outcomes drive the purpose of the team; deadlines are stated and respected; teams receive demonstrable support; teams are accountable to the organization and its leaders; and each team knows its interdependence with other teams and does everything to support those other teams. These rules are valid for any team, not just those within Orpheus.

5. Share and rotate leadership

In most organizations leadership is fixed, that is, leadership authority is formally vested in certain positions and not in others. Managers are by definition leaders and workers are expected to be followers. The higher up the organization chart an individual's position resides, the more power he or she wields. Fixing leadership in positions rather than in people wastes the leadership potential within employees whose positions are not a part of the organization's formal leadership hierarchy. This potential is often ignored or discarded, and occasionally punished.

Sharing and rotating leadership among all the orchestra's musicians is the heart and soul of the Orpheus Process. While most orchestras fix leadership authority within one particular position, the conductor, Orpheus takes a different approach. Whenever the orchestra decides to take on a new piece of music, the group appoints one of its members to lead the development of the piece. The leader is selected on the basis of what skills and knowledge he or she brings to the piece -- someone who is expert in baroque music will be selected to lead a Handel selection, someone who is particularly knowledgeable about twentieth century composers will take on a Stravinsky piece. In this way, leadership is shared and rotated among the different members of the group, and the strengths of individual members of the group are brought to the fore.

6. Learn to listen, learn to talk.

The members of Orpheus know the power of communication, and it is the lifeblood of the organization. Not only are members expected to listen to one another's views and opinions, and to respect what is said and the person who said it -- whether or not they agree with what is being said -- members are also expected to talk. But there is a right time and a wrong time to talk. According to Orpheus violinist Eriko Sato, "Fundamentally, I don't think everybody's opinion should be addressed at all times. There are certain places and times for certain things to be said -- the appropriate moment. Everybody knows what's wrong, everybody can feel what's wrong -- but do you have a solution? Do you know how to solve a problem?"

No topic is considered out of bounds for the members of the group, and constructive criticism is always welcome. This freedom of expression is surprising when one realizes that orchestral musicians are trained from an early age specifically not to offer their opinions to the group and instead to defer to the direction of the conductor. Few conductors welcome the suggestions of the musicians working under their baton, most actively discourage them. In Orpheus, two-way communication is expected, fostered, and reinforced almost constantly.

7. Seek consensus (and build creative systems that favor consensus).

As an increasing number and variety of employees become involved in their organizations' decision-making processes, and as organizations become less autocratic and more democratic, achieving consensus on decisions becomes more important. Consensus, which derives from the Latin word for "shared thought," requires a high level of participation and trust among the members of an organization. Employees must be willing to listen to the views of others and to be flexible and willing to compromise on their own positions.

Traditionally, as the importance of a decision increases, the number of people involved in it decreases in direct proportion. An organization's most important decisions are most often made by its top management team, usually without input from line workers. This is most certainly not the case in Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. In Orpheus, the more important the decision to the organization, the more people are involved in it. But involving more people in the process doesn't dilute the final result, it strengthens it. Violinist Ronnie Bauch is quoted in Christopher Hoenig's The Problem Solving Journey saying, "What you get isn't a watered-down, middle-of-the-road kind of interpretation which you could easily imagine -- you know, General Motors decides to interpret music -- but you get interpretations of extraordinary originality."

In an organization such as Orpheus where positional power is minimal, and where leadership is not fixed, the ability of leaders to build consensus and to convince others to support their opinions is paramount. Without consensus, little can be accomplished in the organization.

8. Dedicate passionately to your mission.

Passion is the spark that can make an ordinary organization great -- and a great organization truly exceptional. When employees are passionate about the jobs they do, the organizations they work for, and the customers they serve, there is little that they cannot accomplish.

This passion, however, sometimes boils over, causing more than a few arguments and heated exchanges. According to violist Nardo Poy in The Problem Solving Journey, "There are times in rehearsal, because of the way we work, the intensity, the directness, often we do get pretty emotional, angry at each other. And yet, when our rehearsal is over, that's pretty much it, for the most part it's over. Either right after rehearsal or the next day, you're still friends." Because musicians in Orpheus feel free to express themselves with one another, resentments and feuds rarely have an opportunity to develop. This results in an environment where all the members of the organization are focused on one thing: producing the very best product possible.

A measure of the passion that Orpheus's members feel for their organization is the fact that although the majority of them also play for other groups, including the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, and teach at schools such as Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music, they consider playing for Orpheus to be their most fulfilling musical experience.

By removing the position of conductor from the organization, New York City-based Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has unleashed an incredible amount of leadership from its members. While the organization and its structures keep evolving, this Grammy-award-winning group continues to perform at the top of its game -- a level of excellence that few other orchestras can approach. And, as long as Orpheus relies on its own members to guide and energize the group, it's likely that this will be the case for many years to come.

Quotations from musicians come from Leadership Ensemble, by Harvey Seifter and Peter Economy (Henry Holt & Company, 2001), except where otherwise noted.

The Orpheus Process

The Orpheus Process translates the communal creativity of a small, four-piece chamber music group -- where each musician has an equal voice in determining how a piece of music will be played -- into the much larger and more complex setting of an orchestra. The Orpheus Process comprises five key elements:

  1. Choosing Leaders. For each piece of music Orpheus performs, a committee of musicians chosen by orchestra members selects a concertmaster, the first-chair violinist. The orchestra's members also select a leadership team of five to seven players, called the core. In Orpheus, the concertmaster anchors the core, leads performances, and works closely with all the musicians to develop a unified vision for the music. Each instrumental section (cello, oboe, and so on) selects individuals to represent it within the core.
  2. Developing Strategies. Before a piece of music is taken to the full orchestra, the core meets to decide how it will be played. The goal: developing an overall interpretive approach to the music. The core accomplishes this goal through rehearsals where many different approaches can be tried in a streamlined fashion.
  3. Developing the Product. After the core is satisfied with its chosen approach to the piece, it is taken to the full orchestra to be rehearsed and refined even further. Musicians from throughout the orchestra make suggestions to improve the piece and critique the playing of their colleagues. When disagreements arise, as they do in any organization, the orchestra members work to reach consensus. If consensus cannot be reached within a reasonable period of time, then a vote is taken and the issue is settled.
  4. Perfecting the Product. Immediately before every concert, one or two members of the orchestra are selected to go out into the hall and listen to the group as the audience will hear it. These musicians report back to the entire group and suggest final adjustments and refinements based on the actual sound of the full orchestra.
  5. Delivering the Product. The final step is performance, the ultimate result of the Orpheus Process. The Orpheus Process does not end here, however. After every concert, participants informally discuss their impressions of the performance and make suggestions for further adjustments and refinements -- all with an eye to improving subsequent performances of the piece.

Seifter, Harvey "The Conductor-less Orchestra" Leader to Leader. 21 (Summer 2001): 38-44.

Copyright © 2001 by Harvey Seifter. Reprinted with permission from Leader to Leader, a publication of the Leader to Leader Institute and Jossey-Bass.