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It's a bit more than just waving your arms about.

Byline: VALERIE HILL

VIRGIN boss Richard Branson is the man most people in this country would like to work for. No, honestly. In a recent survey, he topped the poll for the most sought-after boss - or at least people like him.

His public persona and obvious management skills have landed him a place in our workers' collective hearts, and, if the personal really is the professional, it is perhaps easy to see why.

Branson comes across as interested in people, in the task in hand and in his workforce.

He has the ability to communicate, to persuade and to enthuse. He is neither highhanded, nor is he a push-over.

He has goals, knows where he is going and how to take his employees with him.

Clearly possessing emotional intelligence in spades, Branson also has the handy ability to make a fast buck.

As a captain of industry, he seems ideal, although a recent debate in education circles said that Mr Branson would also be successful as head teacher of a school - despite having no classroom experience.

So, while the stereotype of the respected boss is the pofaced hard task master (or mistress), in reality the role demands a rather more complex interplay of social literacy and strategic management skills.

I once heard it described as having the right people in the right seats on the right bus.

The same analogy could perhaps be applied to an orchestra, and this week's reality TV series, Maestro, puts the theory to the test.

Seven amiable celebs, ranging from newsreader Katie Derham to comedian Bradley Walsh, were put through their paces learning how to conduct the BBC Concert Orchestra, to see if they have what it takes to direct and inspire.

In other words, to lead and conduct.

The programme is debunking the myth that conducting an orchestra involves nothing more than simply waving your arms about, that any fool can do it.

True, there is a bit of gesticulating - the right arm keeps time while the left brings in the various sections - but the overall skills are those of leadership.

That is, having an overall view of what's happening and tuning in to certain areas which need development.

Knowing when to direct, coach, mentor and pull back.

Lack of musical ability was no hindrance to DJ Goldie, who was clearly a natural, whereas professional musician and ex-Blur guitarist Alex James and media flavour of the month was almost voted off for conducting with his hair.

Starsky and Hutch's David Soul acted the part well in a sort of minimalist way, while newsreader Peter Snow was a disaster. Musically, that is.

Comedically, his a-rhythmic windmilling arms were hilarious. He was like a bouncing, amiable giraffe - and about as useful as one to an orchestra.

However, overall favourite from the male judges was Jane Asher. They couldn't get beyond the fact that she "looked beautiful". (In fact, she looked as though she needed a decent meal to me - that girl should learn to cook).

Proving that, whatever the profession, whatever the ability, sex appeal can always play a large part in winning poor benighted men over. Not that this has got anything to do with why all us ladies love Liverpool Philharmonic's conductor deeply talented Vasily Petrenko, the most handsome baton-wielder in the business.

IN SPITE of having no interest whatsoever in the Olympics, even I winced to hear Andy Burnham, sports minister and Leigh MP, predict we'll win 41 medals and trounce Australia.

Talk about pride before a fall - and leading him wide open for Australian journalist Ben English to sneer on the radio that we'd do far better if competing in the "whingeing, dentistdodging and glassing people in pubs" Olympics.

What an epitaph for "broken Britain", but, joking apart, can we really dispute it?

CAPTION(S):

Huggy told me any fool could do this job
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 15, 2008
Words:642
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