As arts organizations, large and small, work to navigate the adversity, uncertainty, and complexities of our new arts ecosystem, the necessity of compelling arts-leadership has been thrust front and center. What is fascinating about the current climate is the all-encompassing nature of the challenge/opportunity—leaders must possess both the “hard” and “soft” skills necessary to successfully steward and transform our cultural organizations.
I recently came into contact with Management Consultants for the Arts, a consulting firm dedicated to supporting and nurturing cultural organizations. Since its founding in 1983, the firm has worked with over 1500 cultural organizations to strengthen each organization and realize their mission mission. Drawing on their nearly 30-years of experience, MCA offers a compelling vision of the effective arts leader:
- The most effective leader is a visionary
- The best leaders understand good management is a must
- The most effective leaders work hard to make their staff and board feel valued
- The most effective leaders relate to staff members and trustees with an open and interested style and have a high tolerance for debate within the organization
- Effective leaders keep the future of the organization in mind
- The most effective leaders do not neglect the issue of succession
(these traits were gathered from https://mcaonline.com/publications-leadership)
These traits are an important reminder of the balance of skillsets required to navigate our current landscape. As a point of self-reflection, it is easy to become consumed with the day-to-day challenges our current crises present. However, visionary leadership, both for what our cultural organizations might look like in the current landscape, and what they might look like as we come out of these crises, serves as a tool to inspire and engage the community, staff, faculty, boards, and donors. While “Good management is a must” to lead organizations through crisis, equally important, especially now, is a sense of empathy and investment in the people we work with. Even when difficult decisions must be made about the size, scope, and work of an organization, a leader must engage, invest in, and inspire those that they lead.
These traits feel relevant and applicable at all levels—from the leadership of oneself to the leadership of our largest cultural organizations. The takeaway here is that it isn’t really ‘arts leaders’ that will navigate our current climate, but rather the groups of people—the organizations—that they lead and inspire.
Learn more about Management Consultants for the Arts Leadership Philosophy: https://mcaonline.com/publications-leadership