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Leaders as Trumpeter

Dave Wondra, a coach for CEOs and leaders, shares a captivating story illustrating effective leadership through his experience as a trumpet player. Drawing parallels between a leader and a trumpeter, Wondra emphasizes the importance of evoking emotion over seeking admiration. Inspired by his mentor, Bobby Shew, a renowned trumpet player and life philosopher, Wondra suggests leaders ask themselves whether they aim to impress or move their audience. The key principle highlighted is the lasting impact of emotional connections in leadership. The formula Truth Be Told encourages leaders to reflect on their approach, shifting from seeking admiration to genuinely moving people.


Allow me to introduce my friend, Dave Wondra, who resides in Minnesota, USA. He is a coach for CEOs and leaders, a non-profit executive, and currently a trumpet player. My son, Asa, plays the trombone, a different instrument. As we’ve discussed various instruments in the band over the years, trumpet players have garnered a reputation among fellow band members for their somewhat attention-seeking behavior.

Recently, at a conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Wondra, and our conversation about his trumpet playing sparked a wonderful story that I want to share with you. This story offers a fantastic model for effective leadership, drawing parallels between a leader and a trumpeter. A leader, like a trumpeter, has a distinct voice that commands attention. When the leader speaks, people listen, just like when a trumpeter plays.

Dave shared a story about his teacher, Bobby Shew, one of the greatest trumpet players in American musical history. Bobby, not only an exceptional musician but also a philosopher of life, imparts valuable lessons to those he mentors.

One such lesson was shared with Dave: “You’ve got to decide when you’re playing, if you’re trying to impress people or move them.” This distinction between seeking admiration and evoking emotion is a profound metaphor for effective leadership. When you step into your role as a leader, ask yourself: Am I here to impress or to move?

Here’s a key principle for leaders to remember: people may forget what you say or do, but they will never forget how you make them feel. Leadership involves creating emotional connections—instilling feelings of loyalty, passion, commitment, and presence.

As a leader, consider the following formula: [Your Name] – Truth Be Told. In any leadership moment, ask yourself whether you are striving to impress or move those you lead. Reflect on past instances of your leadership and assess the balance between trying to impress and aiming to move people. How can you shift your focus from being a trumpeter seeking admiration to becoming a trumpeter striving to move people?


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