Leadership amidst Tragedy

This blog was supposed to be a lighthearted reminscence of my first week on tour, my first major extended travel in years after battling chronic pain and a stomach infection. Indeed, there have been many joyous moments, but I didn't anticipate (and who ever does) how tragedy would touch those I care about and how fundamental leadership is in those sitations.

My first destination was staying at a friend's house during the South Dakota Music In-Service. I was excited to see old friends and present a new lecture for the first time. We'd just sat down to a lovely meal my friend made. She'd taken into account my food sensitivity issues, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. This was an amazing act of generosity and hospitality.

I had maybe one bite of dinner when the phone rang from an unexpected source. So I answered and learned of the sudden passing of a fellow clarinetist, friend, and my cats' favorite sitter. She'd been part of the community clarinet choir I'd founded and lead for 10 years, but we'd disbanded during the pandemic. Some of the other members of the group messaged and even called that day, and I was reminded of the lasting impact of leadership. My role was clear - listen, give them space to process and grieve. 

The next day, I received a text from a student I had mentored years ago. A student of her own was performing in a band festival, and their mother died in a car accident on the way to watch the concert. Ugh. I did my best to remind her that nothing about it was her fault, but my heart ached for her and the family.

Then I was reminded of the difficult times in my life when I reached out for counsel from my mentors, when I sought comfort from leadership from my past. These people had done it right. They made me feel so safe and instilled such a sense of belonging that decades later, I still feel that way in their presense. They are part of my professional family, of sorts. Music is wonderfully weird like that. Creating music together is a bonding experience.

You don't have to be perfect as a leader. You're going to make mistakes. We all do. It's the human condition. 

It's the way you make people feel that matters and that will have a profound impact on their lives. 

Dr. Nancy Williams is a musician, educator, and leadership coach who specializes in helping creatives overcome imposter syndrome and confidence issues in order to have a more joyful and empowering career. Sign up for her newsletter and get the free guide, “3 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome” here.

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