In search of artistry: A comparative study of school principals and orchestral conductors

Walter Raymond Moran, Fordham University


This study explores the phenomenon of artistry in the practice of leadership. It examines the work of school principals and orchestral conductors by focusing on the arena where each is called to lead. Schools and orchestras are complex, human organizations that experience success through collaborative accomplishment. The leader operates within broad parameters shaped by a number of technical (managerial) and artistic dimensions. Artistic leaders are able to navigate this arena in a manner that achieves harmony and inspires uncommon excellence. Qualitative research methodology was applied in interviews with three conductors, an artistic administrator, two Tanglewood Music Fellows, one professional musician, four school principals, and three school superintendents. The findings indicate that the artistic dimensions of leadership encompass the broad areas of vision, beliefs, and image, while the managerial dimensions of leadership include areas related to training, communication, human resources, and motivation. While the artistic and managerial aspects of leadership can be examined separately, they converge and overlap in practice. Successful leadership requires mastery in both domains. The study suggests that effective leadership is practiced behind the scenes as well as out in front, that leaders cannot take quality for granted, and that artistry lies at the intersection of the technical and artistic dimensions of the leader's work. The search for artistry revealed five recommendations to inform and enlighten the practice of educational leaders. Leaders should: (a) understand and emphasize an exulted view of leadership, (b) place greater emphasis on public roles of leadership, (c) enhance career-long learning on the job, (d) celebrate collaboration and harmony, and (e) embrace and marvel at the mysteries of leadership. The study concludes that leadership artistry is not manifested in any single artistic or technical competency, but in the artful practice of all of these competencies.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Moran, Walter Raymond, "In search of artistry: A comparative study of school principals and orchestral conductors" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9975356.