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A Brilliant Example of Co-Active Leadership

  • POSTED ON MAY 30, 2019
A Brilliant Example of Co-Active Leadership

I’m always looking for great examples of Co-Active Leadership in action.

In a conversation with Sarah Goltz, a participant in a Leadership Program I am leading, Sarah shared with me an incredibly inspiring example of Co-Active Leadership.

Sarah is a powerful leader who is a global innovator, advocate and coach. Principal and Founder of Sage Innovation, Sarah and her team work with non-profit organizations, foundations and businesses to design and lead change in global health and development. She is and is longing to bring more being in her truth, powerful collaboration, and heartfelt authentic trust into her leadership.

Here’s Sarah’s story.

I looked down to the orchestra and sideways across the vast Walt Disney Concert Hall to my mom sitting next to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her use the side of her hand to wipe away tears. I leaned forward so I could meet her eyes. “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” she said. “A woman leading a major symphony — glorious, powerfully feminine and entirely at ease.”

At the center front of the orchestra beneath us was Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla — a rocketing and electrifying force in classical music today. The program described her as a “discovery” “combining the dynamism of youth and a profundity beyond her years.” All eyes were on her — including ours.

After the orchestra and solo pianist were comfortably seated, Mirga had walked on stage. She wore simple black pants, shirt and shoes. There was no tuxedo or sequined dress. There was no attention-getting hair. There was no affected bowing. Her energy was warm and present as she entered the hall. When she stood on the daïs, she looked slowly across the different sections of the orchestra. As her gaze met each musician, I could see the eyes of each light up in connection, followed by squirms as the musicians prepared their bodies and instruments. Mirga glanced warmly at the solo pianist, who shot her a warm smile. The energy from the stage was not tight. Rather, there was an unusual space, joy and expectation. The piece ahead was not to be played, rather created. The connection throughout the orchestra and to Mirga was palpable.

Finally, she raised her arms, wrists and fingertips to begin the music. Her fingers quivered, rolled and gesticulated spinning the sound of the orchestra. The expressiveness of her fingers was matched by her arms and legs, which surged and exploded across the daïs. Her movements were deliberate and purposeful — never for show. And yet she crouched, jumped and stretched her body across the platform sculpting the music with elegance, energy and life. Whenever the orchestra knew its direction or the music lulled, Mirga stood still, never calling attention to herself. As the piece played, I noticed people around me shaking their heads in disbelief. She was using Mozart to create a new music.

At the end of the piece, the crowd leapt to our feet. Mirga skipped off the platform and pulled the crowd’s attention to the pianist, then to the first violin, then to individual sections of the orchestra. She walked the requisite times on and off stage, with the pianist, always directing the applause to different members of the orchestra.

After several tours on and off stage, the pianist spoke directly to the audience. This never happens. He said that it was Mirga’s birthday and he wanted to play something special and off the program for her. We were all caught by surprise. Mirga sat down at the side of the stage as the pianist played the most beautiful and tender piece for her. The music filled the hall with the deep warmth, love and sweetest admiration that could be communicated by a master pianist to his dear friend. It was a love song to friendship. When the piece ended, Mirga leapt to her feet to hug the pianist. The hall was filled with love.

 As the concert continued, Mirga and the orchestra played several other pieces with a depth, femininity and joy that I had never imagined. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is strength and grace. She is a conductor. She is a woman. She is Mozart. She is 31 years old.

– Sarah Goltz 

There is so much in this beautiful story that speaks to Co-Active Leadership. There is the foundation of “Co” at the beginning of the concert, where Mirga creates a powerful connection and relationship with her orchestra. There was the 100% “Active” in how she conducted with the complete commitment of her body, both in motion and in stillness. There was her holding of everything — each member and instrument in the orchestra, the music, the audience — in the magical energetic field that she created.

Mirga shows both the power and humility of the dimension of Leader in Front when she enrolls everyone in the hall in her journey, keeps them enrolled throughout and then sits down as a great Leader in Front does when the pianist steps in to be Leader in Front. During the concert, she seems to be both creating and riding the energy as the concert progresses — like a good Leader in the Field. From the beginning, she seems completely tuned into her Leader Within, making powerful choices and not coming from reactive or learned patterns, instead completely dancing in the moment and able to respond to whatever is there from her authentic truth and love. This is a brilliant case study in Co-Active Leadership.

Thank you, Sarah Goltz.

You can find Sarah at

P.S. Dear audience: Please share with me stories of Co-Active Leadership in your lives.

Written By

Henry Kimsey-House

Henry is Co-Founder of CTI, designer of the Coaching Course Curriculum and Leadership Program and co-author of the industry best-selling Co-Active Coaching.

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