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Personal Innovative Leadership Growth: Analysis of Leonard Bernstein

Paper Type: Free Assignment Study Level: University / Undergraduate
Wordcount: 933 words Published: 13th May 2020

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Personal Innovative Leadership Growth Project – Part 2

As stated in the Personal Innovative Growth Project Part 1, the innovator I have selected to research is Leonard Bernstein. Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990) is known as one of the most influential figures in the music world due to his contributions as a conductor, composer, author, lecturer, and music director for the New York Philharmonic. My father, a music educator, frequently mentions the influence and impact Bernstein has had on both the compositional world and his how his musical efforts contributed to the creation of a more peaceful world. In this project, I will investigate Bernstein in his early life and career, how he relates to the characteristics of an innovator, as well as key behaviors and characteristics of his leadership style.

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Bernstein was introduced to music at ten years old; when he fell in love with the piano – something that Bernstein’s family was extremely unsupportive of. However, in spite of his family, his passion grew quickly for music. It was said that he “ [found] inspiration everywhere and played with a voracity and spontaneity that impressed anyone who listened” (Biography.com, 2019). This natural talent quickly transferred from the art of performance to the art of conducting and composition through closely shadowing some of the most influential figures in the music industry; such as; Aaron Copeland. On November 14, 1943, Bernstein became an overnight sensation when the conductor for the New York Philharmonic called in sick. Bernstein, without anytime to rehearse, lead the New York Philharmonic in a nationally broadcasted concert for the first time. Through his performance, his passion, courage and natural ability to lead were showcased. It was this performance that eventually led to his appointment of Music Director (for the New York Philharmonic) in 1958. Under his leadership, the New York Philharmonic became a household name. Musically, Bernstein lead the Philharmonic in groundbreaking compositions and established a reputation for providing new opportunities for both established and emerging composers to perform their new works. By the end of his time with the Philharmonic, Bernstein had led over forty-two world premieres. Bernstein, however, didn’t only seek to program exciting concerts, but strived to make an impact in the New York community. This was accomplished through the implementation of the Young People’s Concerts and the Concerts in the Park series. These concerts served as a way for generations of music lovers and musicians to come together to learn and educate each other, a tradition that is still continued today via a digital platform and social media live broadcasts. And, as Bernstein was equally passionate about bringing people together as he was about music, he continued to utilize “the power of music to unite people across seemingly impervious borders” (New York Philharmonic, 2017) through other efforts such as; the Philharmonic’s tour through the U.S.S.R during the Cold War and entertaining troops and townspeople during Israel’s War of Independence. In addition to utilizing the Philharmonic, Bernstein was set on sparking change to Broadway. During his Broadway debut of “On the Town”, this was the first time African American performers and white performers were able to share the stage and perform equally important roles.


After investigating the early life, career, and his role as a social activist, I was able to connect aspects of Bernstein’s behavior to concepts we have learned in this class in regard to being an innovator and leader. For example, I have found through my research that Bernstein would personify an “identifier profile”; as he was consistently looking to “envision and imagine the future”(Authentic Leadership Lecture) of his program at the Philharmonic, his personal life, and the world around him. This forward thinking juxtaposed with his desire to do good in the community; enabled him to create more than just a world of incredible music; but a world that understands and appreciates the arts for its ability to change the world. In the arts, social casts, cultural differences, and religion all disappear and we become unified as one thing – humans. It has been this idea that has impacted me the most through my research. It is my goal that through my career, I can have a similar purpose. As Bernstein said; “music, of all the arts, stands in a special region, unlit by any star but its own, and utterly without meaning… except its own.”

It is my purpose to dedicate my life to the performing arts by providing incredible, impactful, life changing experiences and performances for people. However, I feel like Bernstein’s purpose, aiding in the unification of the world, is applicable regardless of what career you are pursuing in the future and we can all utilize Bernstein as an example of a true innovator and difference maker.

Works Cited

  • “Authentic Leadership Lecture”, Coers
  • “Leonard Bernstein.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 11 July 2019, www.biography.com/musician/leonard-bernstein.
  • “PHOTOS: Leonard Bernstein’s Legacy of Innovation at the N.Y. Philharmonic.” New York Philharmonic, nyphil.org/whats-new/2017/october/leonard-bernstein-innovator-slideshow.


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