3 leadership lessons from a violinist and a shepherd

The story of American violinist, Joshua Bell and his one-hour violin performance at a Washington D.C. subway station in early 2007 has been told, analyzed, and discussed in videos, reflections, and even sermons across religious denominations. A few year's after the event, a children's book depiction of the social experiment was published, The Man with the Violin. I recently purchased this book to read with my children, and I was struck by the creative and powerful imagery of the illustrator, Dušan Petričić.

from the book "The Man with the Violin"

During the one-hour performance, over 1000 people passed Bell as he played a few pieces of Bach. Only a handful of the passersby paused or stopped for more than a few seconds, and an even smaller number offered a few coins in support. What struck me most about the children's book depiction was in the illustrator's use of color. The violinist (Bell), the young boy, and by extension- his mother, are displayed in full color, energized and brought to life by the music, while everyone else in the busy subway station who were either unaware, oblivious, or too much in a rush to sense or notice Bell's performance are depicted in black and white.


For me, this story highlights how we are all destined to miss out on the beauty (and pain) of our world when our eyes and ears are closed or not tuned-in to our surroundings.

The beginning of the Exodus story provides numerous lessons for leadership; here I enumerate three. After Moses escaped from Pharaoh's palace, married, and settled down to a serene and isolated life of herding sheep, he begins an unexpected journey that eventually brings him back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and lead his people out of slavery: