Shining eyes at THNK breakfast with Ben Zander

Steffie Verstappen
November 9th, 2010
Article by: Steffie Verstappen
Shining eyes at THNK breakfast with Ben Zander

INITIATIVES | On November 9th, we were fortunate enough to have Benjamin Zander, Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra since 1979, all to ourselves for an inspiring breakfast presentation at the Amsterdam Mayor's Residence. Like THNK, Benjamin Zander is all about the "posture of possibility". His ability to convey his ideas to a wide range of persons and audiences makes him one of the true creative leaders of our time.


Wealth, fame and power are the things that appear to drive most people. For Benjamin Zander, the only thing that really matters is the number of shining eyes that he creates around him. This dawned on him during his year-long practice as conductor leading orchestras. At some point, he realized:


"A conductor does not make a sound. For my power, I depend on my ability to awaken possibility in other people. (...) Cynical persons are actually passionate people who don't want to be disappointed. Who they are depends on me, not on them. (...) So I ask myself, who am I being that my people's eyes are not shining?"


The world of possibility is an open-hearted world of joy. In the world of possibility, we do not prove people wrong. Rather, we enroll people in possibility by exercising a mode of openness that radiates opportunity. This comes with a specific type of body language and a whole way of being. Every time you open your mouth, you can choose whether or not to speak in opportunities: we live our lives in a story and we can choose the story we are living in.


To Benjamin, this is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of being in control of life and creating opportunities. It is difficult to maintain in practice because there is a downward spiral, much like gravity. Hence, true creative leaders are able to recognize this downward spiral and then actively move people into the realm of possibilities. To him, true creative leaders do not focus on proving people wrong but enroll them in possibility.


Amsterdam's Deputy Mayor Carolien Gehrels asked for advice on how to deal with constant political attacks. Benjamin’s wife, Rosamund, advised her to not take the attacks personally and to move beyond them if she cannot address them. Benjamin recommended that she “have a clear vision of what you’re about”, citing Mandela as a person who did not compromise on his vision, even if it meant remaining in prison for 27 years.


Benjamin praised Barack Obama for his initial passion, energy and excitement but expressed concern that Obama has lost his vision. “Don’t lose the vision. If you give up on that, then you lose the music.”


THNK looks forward to future collaboration with Benjamin and Rosamund and embedding possibility into its creative leadership curriculum.



Watch a few soundbites from our interview with Benjamin and Rosamund Zander below:


Browse through the photos of our meeting with Zanders.