Do Athletes Make Better Employees Than Musicians Do?

The New York Times has a weekly column called “Corner Office,” where editor Adam Bryant interviews senior business executives about leadership, management, hiring practices, etc.

The July 3 interview with Kathy Button Bell, VP and CMO of Emerson, made me grumpy when I read the following passage:

Bell: I think everybody benefits from having played sports.  It makes you a good sharer, for one thing, in lots of ways.  And it makes you more empathetic in general.  I love to see sports in a résumé.  A woman who works for me right now was a Harvard swimmer, and I can tell that every time I talk to her about something.  She’s an endurance athlete.  She’s tough in a pinch.  She will get it done.  And I respect that enormously….

Bryant: Do you think people can get those qualities just as much from being in an orchestra, or in a dance troupe?

Bell: There’s something about how hard sports are physically that’s helpful.

Bell then goes on to talk about the physical demands of traveling, for which athletic conditioning might be helpful. However, the other attributes that Bell mentions — being a good sharer, empathy, toughness, diligence — are absolutely essential to good musicianship. Dancers, you should feel miffed too!

Two weeks ago, 140 members of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus drove from the greater Boston area to the Berkshires (~3 hours), then sang from 12:30 to 6:30 in 90-degree weather. For no pay. Don’t get me started on endurance, Ms. Bell.

3 thoughts on “Do Athletes Make Better Employees Than Musicians Do?

  1. Private piano teacher says:

    Wow, interesting article. I think she is talking about physical endurance, not mental endurance. Also, I think if mental cognitive ability intelligence were tested, it might give different results. Thanks for sharing, I might include it on my music teaching blog as well. Thanks!

    -Theresa Chen

  2. Piano Education & Lessons says:

    There could be some truth here but not because of the reasons mentioned here. Musicians are creative people and usually wait for inspiration to strike or like to do things when they are in the right mood, may be not suitable for the corporate world.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have to disagree that musicians are not suited to the corporate world (with the understand that the labels ‘athlete’ and ‘musician’ completely ignore the concept of individual). I’d hire an intellectually fit musician over a physically fit athlete any day.

      Also, creative people don’t work hard? Really?

      Coming from the corporate world, I find musicians are frequently the hardest working employees and have the most agile and disciplined minds. I suppose athletes would make good employees, however, if you own an on-foot courier service or a sports business.

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