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What type of choir director are you?

Think about the choir directors you’ve had in the past. What were they like? Each one likely had a different approach to leading, conducting, and communicating. What makes a great leader? Which communication style is most effective?

Let’s begin with leadership style.

Determining your leadership style

How do you interact with others? Writer David Jensen described two types of people: open and reserved.

According to an article by Jenson on behavioural style, ‘Open people…are willing to reach out and touch. They will use a lot of eye contact and expression to communicate.’ If you’re an open leader, people may describe you as easy to work with, agreeable, friendly, and caring.

By way of contrast, Jenson then goes on to say that ‘Reserved people ‘will hold back on disclosing anything that might give clues to their inner nature.’ If you’re a reserved leader, people may describe you as thoughtful, intentional, dedicated, and doing high-quality work.

Where do you fall on the spectrum?

Determining your communication style

How would you describe your communication style? Here are four interesting ways to look at communication styles, as suggested by ‘Straight Talk’,

  • Director: You are goal-oriented, a risk-taker, driven, and focused. You often communicate in a quick, direct manner.
  • Expresser: You are creative, an expressive story-teller, dynamic, and enthusiastic. You often communicate by explaining and describing things in detail.
  • Thinker: You are detail-oriented, a problem-solver, intentional, and thorough. You often communicate by asking questions, then giving specific feedback.
  • Harmonizer: You are quiet and thoughtful, a conflict-avoider, and care deeply about the people you work with. You often communicate only when needed, in a gentle manner.

Which one resonates with you?

Understanding the type of choir director you are

Determining your leadership and communication styles are important to figuring out what type of choir director you are. To help illustrate this, I put together four character profiles. Can you relate?


The artist

You are well-trained in music history, theory, and literature. Creating beautiful music is your top priority. You feel things deeply and may get offended when others don’t seem to care as much as you do about the art form, but people respect you and your opinions.

Leadership style: Reserved

Communication style: Thinker

Strengths: You are committed to excellence, hard-working, and dedicated.

Weaknesses: You may be perceived as closed off and not relatable.


The organizer

You are driven, structured, and attentive to details. You plan ahead and are always prepared. Your rehearsals are planned to the minute. You have systems and strategies for teaching new anthems, reviewing parts, and developing vocal technique. Some may resist this amount of structure, but you get results.

Leadership style: Reserved

Communication style: Director

Strengths: You are driven and provide structure for learning and achieving goals.

Weaknesses: You may be perceived as inflexible, strict, or high-strung.


The entertainer

You want choir to be fun. You want to win the affection of your choir members, so you try not to ask too much of them in rehearsal. Some may consider this a laissez-faire (“let them do” in French) approach, but you want people to feel comfortable and see you as an equal.

Leadership style: Open

Communication style: Expresser

Strengths: You are friendly and easy to be around and create a relaxed environment.

Weaknesses: You may be perceived as lax, lacking initiative, or not committed.


The facilitator

You enjoy working collaboratively with your choir. You seek their input and value their opinions and ideas. You work together to develop a strategy to address something you’re working on. You see yourself as a learner as much as a teacher sometimes.

Leadership style: Open

Communication style: Harmonizer

Strengths: You empower others and create a thoughtful learning environment.

Weaknesses: You may be perceived as less knowledgeable or lacking the ability to take charge.

The purpose of these illustrations is to help you think about your leadership and communication style and develop the flexibility you need to lead and serve your choir well. Note the strengths and weaknesses for each; how does this inform your work?

Learning how others communicate

Finally, it’s important to learn how others communicate and receive information, especially in group settings, as you’ll likely have many communication style preferences within your choir. How do you communicate effectively in a way that reaches everyone?

The secret is learning to be flexible. According to an article by Carnicer, Garridom, and Requena, published in the International Journal of Music and Performing Arts (June 2015, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.84-88) ‘Good leaders are able to adopt and combine different styles of leadership to improve the welfare and efficacy of the group they lead’. The key is learning to recognize what your choir needs when and adapting in the moment.

What leadership or communication strategy has helped you become a more effective leader?

Images provided by Mohamed_Hassan. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

Featured image credit: Leadership, illustration by Geralt via Pixabay

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