The Future of Leadership

Posted by Ian David Moss On April - 13 - 2010

(My thanks to Jean Cook of the Future of Music Coalition and Adam Huttler of Fractured Atlas for their contributions to this article.)

We hear a lot of talk about the coming leadership transition in the arts. Baby Boomers are nearing retirement age, and Gen X’ers and Millennials are itching to take on increased responsibility. Both for the good of the arts as a whole and for the individuals involved, we need to make sure that, when the time comes, the people getting behind the wheel will have had some experience riding shotgun first. Hence our conversations have frequently centered on professional development, training, networking, and mentorship as strategies to better prepare our young(er) drivers.

It’s important to recognize, though, that the conversation isn’t—or shouldn’t be, at any rate—solely about passing the keys from one generation to the next. That’s something that has been happening since time immemorial, and is part of the normal cycle of nature and humanity. What’s so newsworthy about that, really? Naturally, there are lessons about leadership to be handed down from the elders to the newbies – and our conversations on ArtsBlog have boasted some elders’ generous attempts to do just that. Every so-called “emerging leader” who knows what he or she is talking about acknowledges that there is much to learn from those who came before, and that we would be foolish to pretend that we already have the answers. After all, the calls for mentorship are coming more from the younger generations than it is from the elders. Read the rest of this entry »

Organized with a Capital “O”

Posted by Ebony McKinney On April - 9 - 2010

So how do we, emerging arts leaders, embrace the new creative economy, but not become what Angela McRobbie described in her essay “Everybody is Creative: Artists as New Economy Pioneers” as “a society of lonely, mobile, over-worked individuals for whom socializing and leisure are only more opportunities to do a deal”. How do we stay afloat, while helping to drive innovation and keep a diversity of (popular as well as thoughtful, well-crafted) art alive in our communities?

What do we do first?

Get organized. As individual arts and culture workers each of us must build our own capacity for risk and to make mistakes. Build it, try it, fix it is my new mantra. I am working to be both a planner and doer, to be ambitious and creative, while building in time for self- reflection, evaluation and course correction. I’ve also found that risk and learning can be supported through shared leadership, mentorship, collaboration and coordination. Read the rest of this entry »

Are We Taking Advantage of Interns?

Posted by Selena Juneau-Vogel On April - 9 - 2010

Marc’s Seder post about the youngest person in the room asking “why are we doing things the way we’re doing things?” got me thinking—are we really letting the youngest in the room ask the questions?

I want to remind myself and my fellow Millennials that with all our pounding on the “glass ceiling”, our subversive questions, and our demands to sit at the adult table, let us not forget that there are others that follow us. In our fit to close the generation gap before us, we are not always as attentive as we could be in preventing a gap behind us. Who’s that behind us? Who’s the youngest in the room? She’s the one that you’ve had silently de-duping the mailing list for the last two weeks at the desk in the basement by the boiler. She’s your intern.

Unpaid internships are quite the racket. Our parents didn’t intern at all but now there’s inflated pressure to spend every summer from 14 to 22 and often beyond in servitude (no, not service) just to get into college, then into grad school, and THEN get a job. I’m exaggerating a bit, but I think we’ve all seen the trend. Read the rest of this entry »

Want to be an Executive Director? Start your own organization.

Posted by Katherine Denny On April - 9 - 2010

I was reading Shannon Daut’s post on the lack of executive opportunities for emerging leaders and it got me thinking:  true – there are very few Executive Director positions available, and usually those are offered to seasoned, rather than next generation leaders. Of course this makes sense when experience (or a name) is held higher than untapped vision. With the emergence of more graduate programs focused on arts administration, the competition is even greater: we are becoming more educated, more skilled, and we are looking for a challenge.

So perhaps we should be creating our own challenges.

Last year I joined fellow community members and arts-minded neighbors to create the North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition, which produces, presents and supports public art while addressing the needs of the North Brooklyn community. In keeping with its advocacy efforts, I moderated a conversation of 25 arts leaders of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. We gathered to discuss the role of public art in our open spaces and, more broadly, the state of the arts in our community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Becoming “Leaderful”

Posted by Selena Juneau-Vogel On April - 9 - 2010

I am of two minds about leadership trainings. On one hand I believe any time invested in thinking about leadership is worthwhile. On the other hand, we should not expect classroom-based, curriculum-driven instruction to work in a vacuum. Whatever combination of the words “leadership,” “management,” “academy,” “institute,” “fellowship,” or even, “university” we use, if we think packing ourselves off to leader camp for a day or a week is some sort of silver-bullet solution to either our demands for professional development or our organization’s whimperings for change then we are sorely mistaken.

Yes—we can read about and listen to mantras on teamwork, ethics, giving and receiving feedback, results-based decision making, strategic planning, emotional intelligence, and business acumen but without a complimentary system with which to practice these skills are we really supporting leadership development? No amount of leadership lecturing can help a young manager who is returning to an organization that doesn’t want to change. Read the rest of this entry »

What is it about cross-sector collaboration that turns on young arts professionals? Whether its art therapy, eco art or political activism through the arts, my peers seem particularly drawn to social service, urban design, environmental, health and economical revitalization partnerships. This inclination speaks to our interest in expanding the scope of our organization’s artistic work so that it may touch and speak to a broader public. It also speaks to emerging leaders’ diverse professional interests.

Los Angeles-based institutions have picked up on the trend of cross-disciplinary art practices and art programs. Artist collaborative Fallen Fruit recently curated an exhibition and participatory event series at LACMA that brings together concepts of urban farming, sustainability, politics and architecture called EATLACMA. Edgar Arceneaux and Watts House Project wants to ignite economic revitalization through community engagement with the arts. LA Commons invites the public to investigate the LA urban landscape through cultural treks through the city. The Unusual Suspects brings play-writing, play producing and acting opportunities to probation camp teens to inspire, change lives and ultimately reduce recitivism. These are the types of civic engagement projects that my peers and I are eager to conceive and be a part of. Read the rest of this entry »

The Pipeline is Leaking, and it’s Clogged Too

Posted by Marc Vogl On April - 9 - 2010

When someone leaves an organization one has to ask: did they jump or were they pushed?

The ‘arts leaders of tomorrow’ are leaping, and getting shoved out of the arts non profits all the time – and it’s one of the biggest problems those of us who want to see dynamic arts organizations contribute to a vital society must solve.  (By the way I know everyone is sick of debating what ‘emerging’ means in the leadership discussion but can we get a cool acronym or something to shorthand the group of people in the early part of their careers in the arts?). Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership is a Verb, Not a Noun

Posted by Rosetta Thurman On April - 9 - 2010

I’ve been writing about leadership and young nonprofit professionals for the past three years, and what I’ve finally come to is this: one of our biggest misconceptions about leadership is that it has something to do with a title.

The nonprofit sector often operates as if leadership were a noun. They look to “the leadership” to provide the answers, and blame “the leadership” when ideas fail or solution don’t come fast enough. I’ve heard many a young professional talk about leaving their organization because of disappointment in “the leadership.” The problem with this sentiment is that it assumes that leadership is a position at the top of the org chart and that it’s the responsibility of one person (or a select few) to lead the agency to success.

That’s why we use the term “emerging leaders.” Because we think that until you’ve reached the CEO position or ascend to a senior management role or reach the ripe age of 50, you have not yet “emerged.”

But what if we thought of leadership as a verb?

Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s to Not Knowing the Ropes

Posted by Tommer Peterson On April - 9 - 2010

First off, you need to know how hard it was not to type “Knot knowing the Ropes,” but I managed to resist at least for a few seconds.

Inexperience, like a bad pun, is undervalued.

By that, I don’t mean ignorance of one’s field, or bring unprepared, but being free of the self-imposed limits can easily come with working in a field for a period of time. Our new and (in the best sense) inexperienced colleagues are often a great source of new ideas and creative solutions. And this creativity is often born of not knowing the “best practices” or the traditions of our lines of work. Read the rest of this entry »

Building a Farm System for the Arts

Posted by Joshua Russell On April - 8 - 2010

I have been enjoying all of the rich dialogue that has been going on all week through this Blog Salon from some very articulate individuals. Like most of you, I do what I am passionate about. I am passionate about the arts, and have been since High School when the arts helped me find my voice, my confidence and a group of friends that I still have today.

I am also passionate about sports. I am not able to work within sports but I do keep active with three sports blogs that I write and manage on a daily basis. This allows me to engage in both of the areas that I find the most passion and excitement.

It is with that unique lens that got me thinking about the path to leadership in the arts. In fact, the way that I often describe our emerging arts leader network, genARTS is as “a farm system for arts leadership.”

Think about it, you’ve got Single A (new to the field), Double A (a couple of years of experience), Triple A (established emerging leaders, ready to step into a leadership position) and the Major Leagues (leaders of arts and cultural organizations).   Read the rest of this entry »

Boss : Emerging Leader :: Funder : Grantee (A Bullet-Point Manifesto)

Posted by Ian David Moss On April - 8 - 2010

(Note: the last time I guest-blogged for Americans for the Arts, my inaugural post in the bullet-point manifesto format became the third-most-commented post on ArtsBlog ever. We’ll see what kind of response this one gets!)

A boss is to an emerging leader as a funder is to a grantee.

  • Think about this: there is an inherently unequal power relationship between a boss and an employee.
    • A boss gets paid more.
    • A boss has greater autonomy to make decisions about how she does her job.
    • A boss has greater autonomy to decide what her job even is.
    • A boss can make decisions that affect not just her own work, but everyone else’s work too.
    • A boss is identified with her organization and therefore has greater visibility.
      • Meaning better connections and more opportunities to lead.
    • And most importantly…

Creative Capacity Fund – Sometimes it IS About the Money

Posted by Cora Mirikitani On April - 8 - 2010

Even in the best of economic times, the biggest barrier to accessing professional development offerings can be a lack of money, plain and simple.  This is probably more true now given the effect of the recession on nonprofit budgets, when many chief executives are seeing their travel and conference attendance curtailed, leaving even less hope for more recently hired staff to attend these programs – including many emerging arts leaders – because they are further down the organizational totem pole.

That’s why I was so thrilled when the Irvine and Hewlett Foundations agreed to support a new initiative at CCI to create a special pool of money parked at our Creative Capacity Fund, just for next generation arts leaders in California to attend workshops and conferences, or work with personal coaches or consultants, to address their professional development needs.  And we’re talking about pretty significant money – $200,000 in professional development grants up to $1,000 each that will directly support some 200-250 next generation leaders in the next two years. Read the rest of this entry »

Supporting Leadership Programs

Posted by Jeanne Sakamoto On April - 8 - 2010

In an ideal world, well-funded arts organizations set aside a week or more every year for their emerging leaders to attend professional development workshops or conferences tailored specifically to address the key issues and trends they see in their disciplines. Sounds like a smart thing to do, right? And yet we all know that while the demand exists for these types of professional development programs, they are typically one of the first things to be sacrificed when budgets are cut and revenue is scarce.

At Irvine, we began researching next generation leadership development issues as a way to help advance the arts field in California. Now, given the impact of the recession on the arts, it seems even more important to us that we help prepare the next generation of leaders.

You might argue that leadership development is a luxury that the sector can’t afford right now, but we feel that there are more reasons than ever to support these vital programs. Throughout the recession, we have heard many tales of our grantees having to make severe cuts in staff and programs, typically after they decided to eliminate any possibility for professional development activities. Those employees that did survive the layoffs were often asked to take on additional responsibilities, sometimes for less money, and without adequate training to do so. Needless to say, morale at many organizations was low and the overall situation created a perfect storm for emerging arts leaders to leave the field, either by choice or by pink slip. Read the rest of this entry »

Planting Seeds: Sustaining Leadership Growth

Posted by Ebony McKinney On April - 8 - 2010

Last April, we held our first public event, Evolve & Vocalize. We asked the audience of 80 folks, a multi-disciplinary crowd of predominantly Gen X and Gen Y’s (with some progressive Boomers mixed in) on an early Saturday morning at SoMarts Cultural Center… “What could we enact now that will make a positive, powerful impact on your arts sector career in the future?” Our steering committee heard that there was a need for self-organizing, better connections to peers and mentors, access to relevant capacity building services and interest in experimenting with new business models.

The recent award from Hewlett and Irvine made it possible for us to spend dedicated time researching and creating an outline of our future in a 4-year strategic plan, action plan and budget. It’s also helping provide focused learning, knowledge sharing and network building opportunities like our spring 2010 series, New Growth : a spotlight on new ways of working. These funds, to a great extent, have allowed us to be more reflective and proactive. Read the rest of this entry »

What a Seder Can Teach Us about Arts Leadership

Posted by Marc Vogl On April - 7 - 2010

Who went to a Seder last week?

I went to one in San Francisco and, perhaps because I was thinking about what I wanted to blog about in this emerging leader’s discussion, I was struck by the protagonist at the center of the story. (I was also impressed with my sister’s matzah lasagna but that’s for another blog).

If the Seder were a cabaret the big number is the Ma Nish Tanah, and that solo belongs to the youngest person in the room. And, what does this person do with the spotlight? They start asking questions.

I may be stretching here, but I think there is an analogy that may apply to the discussion of inter-generational dynamics within an arts organization.  Because so many arts organizations operate on incredibly thin margins and strive to provide quality programming that their constituencies (audiences, students, community members, etc.) depend on, they are, necessarily, very focused on the tasks at hand: getting the show ready to open this weekend, preparing for a Board meeting tonight, or turning in the grant application in by  5pm.  Those in leadership positions especially carry the burden of executing the plan of record which, as many E.D.s will attest, means putting out the fire that’s blazing now or shifting the pots on the stove around so that none boils over today. Read the rest of this entry »