If you have ever played the piano, you are probably familiar with the importance of “Middle C.” Middle C on the piano keyboard is actually designated C4 on the tonal scale. What makes it much more central than its scientific position as C4 is the fact that it is how pianists, whether learning chopsticks or playing Rachmaninoff, orient themselves.

Having pulled up the bench, arranged the music on its stand and positioned your feet over the pedals you orient your hands to “middle C.” So important is this orientation that if it were it missing, it would be difficult for all but the most experienced players to play successfully.

In leadership “middle C” represents compassion—both the ability and the desire to feel for and with those you are called to lead. There are as many theories and as much research around leadership as there are leaders and those who research the field. Leadership traits, such as Character and Competence, have been central to leadership theories, including those advanced by Dr. Stephen R. Covey in his landmark work, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

But what do character and competence matter if you can’t feel for me and with me? Often the leader is heading down a familiar road. But what is familiar to her might be brand new and frightening to those she leads. A little compassion makes sure that her team can orient themselves around that very deep level of caring—just like a pianist preparing to perform her masterpiece orients herself around the piano’s middle C.

For further information:

Cazaubon, Mantius. Middle C On The Piano Keyboard and Grand Staff. Piano Keyboard Guide.


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