HESSENIUS GROUP focus on involving younger people in the artsHello everybody.
"And the beat goes on..............."
This month the group focuses on the involvement of younger people in the arts field. The dialogue will go on all week, bookmark the site and check back for new comments from the panel, guests and the viewers. If you would like to comment on what's been said or share your own thought - scroll to the end of the CURRENT DISCUSSION (don't go too far or you will enter a comment for last month's entry - and click on "Comment" = then enter your own.
The participants include:
and we have invited the following emerging leaders in the arts to join us and represent the younger professional's point of view in this discussion:
Marialaura Leslie - Chief of Information and Outreach at the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, who currently serves as Chair of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leader Council.
Shannon Daut - Senior Director of Programs - WESTAF
Jodi Beznoska - Communications Director, Walton Arts Center
Lisle Soukup - Director - Arizona Citizens for the Arts
How are the arts doing in terms of recruiting, training, mentoring, and involving younger people in their organizational structures? Are we developing the next generation of arts leaders? What grade would you give us in terms of our engaging those future leaders? Equipping them with the tools they will need? Including them the in the decision making processes and seating them at the tables at which we sit? Are we listening to them?
BARRY: Let me start by asking one of our guests how they perceive the issue from the point of view of one of the younger emerging leaders. Lesle Soukup, are the arts involving younger people?
When I look around me, I find that leadership opportunities for 20, 30 and even 40-somethings in the arts still remain largely self-created.
I have several young colleagues who, even as they exhibit exemplary entrepreneurship and innovation in starting their own galleries, theatre companies and non-profit organizations are still relegated to their cubicles--and away from the decision-making process.
Marialaura - what's your take on this?
More and more established arts leaders are realizing that in order for the arts to continue thrive, the need to cultivate young and diverse arts leadership is crucial. Identifying leadership that can succeed them is becoming a real concern for a generation of pioneer leaders in the arts field. At the same time, we are seeing an increase in the number of younger arts professionals that are engaging in the arts dialogue locally and nationally. Young administrators in the arts are emerging as leaders in the field, consciously and deliberately stepping forward to fill the void between their generation and the current generation of cultural leaders. The challenge for us is how to connect the two and bridge the gap. The topic of succession and emerging leadership in the arts has begun to surface in discussions about the future and we have only just begun to address the challenge. Much work is still needed in this area to create awareness of the issues and find ways to connect generations of arts leaders in search of common goals. Only when established and emerging leaders work together will we create meaningful solutions to this critical problem facing the arts field.
BARRY: Shelley, what are your thoughts?
As I thought about this question, I reflected back to the days when I, as young and emerging leader, became executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts over 20 years ago and what I learned from my predecessors at the agency. The agency, even before my tenure of 30 years, has been known as a training ground for young and emerging arts administrators. A large number of alumni have become national and regional leaders.
The very wise chairman who hired me told me that it was very important to think about the future and plan for who would take my place. I took my responsibility for mentoring others seriously and was very involved in staff development. Arizona has been committed to a combination of on-the-job training and external professional development opportunities for staff. Staff professional development funds were always maintained; even in times of other dramatic budget cuts. When a staff person left, we always took the time to look at reorganization that would provide new learning opportunities for remaining staff.
In current time there is greater consciousness about opportunities and training for emerging leaders; there is a desire, initiated by these emerging leaders, for new support systems and networks. There are more organized education programs and training opportunities through universities and other sources.
I believe one of the most challenging areas is understanding and capitalizing on the different cultural values between the generations and how we older folks are able to be open and learn new ways to engage and bring in younger voices and train the next generation.
Jodi - what's your experience been?
I have to answer these questions with reflection on two different times in my life: currently, and nearly 6 years ago, when I entered the arts administration field. And then I have to share some thoughts about one more, very crucial area.
Today, I find myself in an incredibly supportive and forward-thinking organization. Seriously, it feels as if I somehow escaped the narrow and restrictive world of young arts managers and have landed on a different planet here in Fayetteville, Arkansas. My organization gets an A in my book for its commitment to embracing young managers. Indeed, the company just went through a reorganization that created a middle tier management group specifically formed to bring the gaps between strategy and tactics. My recruitment process was far more sophisticated that I'd ever imagined it would be, I have received every opportunity for professional development, have an incredibly supportive manager and senior staff, and feel, every day, that my ideas are listened to, respected, and considered thoughtfully.
However, when I entered the field in 2000, my experience was vastly different. I was offered a job while dressed in blacks, readying the backstage for a theater performance, had little or no time (and no financial support) for professional growth, and, even with a wonderful mentor, quickly realized I had nowhere to go. At the top sat the artistic and managing directors, and at the bottom, the rest of us. I very specifically remember sitting at a party one night, full to bursting with ideas and thoughts, but knowing that I couldn't speak up, that my ideas wouldn't be considered valid, because I was too young, too inexperienced. That night, I decided to go to graduate school. And then, I entered a world of incredible support and resources that has opened many doors.
So as a field, how are we doing? We're getting better. The field is beginning to recognize the importance of young leaders. There are graduate programs, emerging leader conferences and networks that young managers can use. But, as my job search told me, there are still few organizations where younger managers are not just present, but embraced, valued, and expected to contribute.
I am lucky - I have a great education and a tremendous support network. While I value my education and my role as an arts administrator tremendously, I harbor some fear that the artists among us are being persuaded away from becoming emerging leaders in the true sense of the word; leaders who are able to give time and energy to this fascinating mix of art AND business. I believe strongly that artists are done a disservice if they aren't given a chance to learn, along with their craft, the art of living in the business world. They don't have to love it, but they have to be ready for it. And honestly, why shouldn't our most creative and innovative people take an active role in managing the business of our field? We will be better for it.
BARRY: Jerry, you've given this topic considerable thought. Can you put it in context for us?
THE VALUE OF LISTENING TO PEOPLE YOUNGER THAN ME
This is an excerpt from an article published in the Fall 2005 Grantmakers in the Arts Reader Is Knowledge in the Right Places? A Reflection on Assumptions. (If you'd like a copy of the footnotes/citations for this excerpt, please request a copy from email@example.com.)
Knowing and Un-Knowing (from recent articles/publications)
* Information in most fields increases at the rate of two percent per month. When compounded, this means that information in most fields doubles every three years. Four times as much information is available now than was available six years ago.
* Too much knowledge can result in "a closed and entrenched perspective, resulting in a person's not moving beyond the way in which he or she has seen problems in the past."
* The decision-makers in the system don't see things that fall outside the pattern of their expectation, and they continue not to see them until finally the system breaks and they find themselves in chaos.
* The value of organizational forgetting.
* People will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself....and not by external pressures or inducements.
* Creative ideas are novel and valuable, but often rejected because the creative innovator stands up to vested interests and defies the crowd.
* Breakthrough creativity occurs at the intersection of previously unconnected planes of thought.
Acquiring New Knowledge
One of the skills of mature thinking is to be able to quickly assess the "domain relevance" of new knowledge. Think of sorting through your junk postal mail or email inbox. It takes less than a minute to sort through piles of material. The downside is that an envelope that looks like all others OR an email message from an unknown voice OR the commentary from a younger staff member OR a practice that's outside our current understanding is quickly rejected. By not inviting younger or unfamiliar voices to be included in our forums, blogs among them, we're hurting ourselves by keeping valuable perspectives out of the conversation.
A recent report on the innovative uses of technology, Power to the Edges - Trends and Opportunities in Online Civic Engagement, "people who are hired to implement technological solutions are hired by people who do not understand the problem; they're neither able to hire the right people nor able to evaluate their work."
To learn new knowledge, we need to unlearn old knowledge that no longer serves us. "Intentional forgetting can benefit an organization by helping to rid it of knowledge that has been producing dysfunctional outcomes" For example, contemporary marketing theory espouses precision marketing, where the correct message is delivered at the right time, e.g. reminding me to have my oil changed or have my annual physical. Receiving a reminder several months in advance becomes noise that I discard, but timely reminders are valued and appreciated. Some arts presenters are beginning to think that large omnibus season brochures become too much noise for the person who's primarily interested in just world music and dance and are moving to create electronic brochures that can be specifically tailored to the needs of specific audiences. They recognize the need to unlearn some old methods to learn new ones. I wonder what other things we need to unlearn?
Arts consultant Alan Brown suggests that the most important new innovations in arts marketing will be peer-to-peer strategies - invite a friend, "viral" forwarding, etc. However many of us have difficulty moving from increasingly costly print advertising (which we understand and can manage) to virtual and viral strategies.
One of the advantages of the younger generation is that they don't need to unlearn some things. Innovative visual arts jury processes are using digital systems developed by WESTAF to select artists, while others are feverishly attempting to maintain slide projection methods, even though Kodak stopped making slide projectors and replacement parts in 2004. Heterarchical (vs. hierarchical) processes suggest that those with the most knowledge take leadership roles - so X-gens lead X-gen marketing task forces, Asian Americans develop marketing plans to reach Asian Americans, etc.
Young people - anyone ten or more years younger than my 58 years - have knowledge and strength that is invigorating. However, their strengths are almost archetypal, threatening the status quo as senior leaders try to hold on to past values, positions, and ways of operating. To use a metaphor from Joseph Campbell - might we be seeing young knights (male and female) challenging seasoned veterans and elders?
How do we bridge old and new - world views, knowledge, and leadership?
* What practices should we unlearn?
* Who should we listen to less?
* Who should we listen to more?
* How do we improve our listening skills?
* How do we create prototypes for new ways of doing our work?
* How do we learn together from all this and implement substantive changes?
Complexity theory suggests the value of not holding on intractably to old methods but rather to progress from what's known (how we did business in the past) to what's knowable (research, systems thinking), and, then beyond the knowable, to a complexity where we can begin to develop methods that are effective in complex new work environments.
That's a lot to chew on. Who wants to start?
I'm not sure that we as "the field" have the knowledge or capacity to recruit, train, and mentor the next generation of leaders- where are we recruiting them from, what are we recruiting them to? Did we ever acquire the tools needed to do our jobs and, if so, are they still the right tools requisite to the task at hand? Plus, much of our work is at conferences and meetings where scale and economics inhibit our ability to involve our younger colleagues.
In conclusion, I'm not sure that our intuitive, ad hoc, pre-web, post-modern management methods are the stuff that effective mentorship is or will be made of.
But I could be wrong.
Shannon - what's your reaction?
I think that the fact that this question needs to be asked verifies that, as a field, we are not where we can be with regard to developing the next generation of arts leaders. Much has been accomplished in the past few years, thanks to the efforts of Americans for the Arts and other organizations who have made this issue a priority. In the past couple of years I have seen a noticeable increase in young faces at state, regional and national convenings. So now, rather than witnessing "seasoned" leaders wringing their hands about how to deal with the lack of young leaders to take over their organizations, there are actually young people participating in those discussions! I think that the biggest danger facing this impending transition is the tendency to select a particular group of emerging leaders, say those in their late 20's to early 30's, to receive focused leadership opportunities at the expense of those who are even younger or don't fit "the profile." As a next generation arts leader myself, I see the continuous cycle of leadership development as the key to this issue - if we are facing the same situation when I am about to retire, I'll know I haven't done my job.
Secondly, I think we all should be conscious of the fact that sequestering emerging leaders or emerging leadership issues from the larger arts field will not help us reach our desired outcome of creating strong leadership for the future. Emerging leaders should be integrated into the programming, staff and leadership of organizations in a meaningful way. Further, I don't think this issue is about emerging leadership for emerging leadership's sake. Of course the field needs to address this issue, if only because many executive directors are nearing retirement. But I think it goes deeper than that. The next generation of arts professionals has a lot to offer in many respects: innovative approaches to perennial issues; technology savvy; a connection with the next generation of arts audiences; proficiency at multi-tasking; a strong desire to continually learn and grow both professionally and personally.
Finally, I wonder how other sectors are dealing with this phenomenon. Certainly we are not alone in facing the upcoming wave of baby boomer retirement. And younger professionals today may not stay in the nonprofit or corporate sector their entire lives, as was often the case for previous generations. What is being done in other sectors and what might we learn from them? How are other young professionals being prepared for leadership, and how might we work together?
Paul Minicucci, what do you think?
We all know that there is a graying of arts administrators that is exacerbated by the fact that most of us (in our late forties, fifties and early sixties) came up the ranks together more or less at the same time as public funding for the arts flourished in the seventies and eighties. I am afraid however that it is not an issue at all for many leaders and policy makers much less a priority.
I have a few observations that I think will come from a different perspective than my colleagues on the Hessenius Group some of whom have thought about this issue a great deal and in some cases have begun serious recruitment.
For me and my emphasis of late on digital arts, the issue stems not just from a different perspective about arts administration but from generational issues of what art is and in what sector it belongs. For many young people the distinctions we know and observe between non-profit art (fine and performing art) and commercial art is blurred.
For a lot of young people making art is a collaborative effort and includes artists and some people who may not fit the traditional definition of artist. I think it may have to do with a post-modern idea that everything that came before can be "borrowed" esthetically and materially to make new art. Hip-hop of course began as a melding of musical forms including prerecorded sampling, break dancing and street poetry. New video often includes the use of bits and pieces of other work from across many genres. The use of digital sound and pictures is a basic staple for many "new" art forms and artists. The tools for making this art may seem strange to us. For some of us the products may not be considered art at all.
So I will gently contest the notion that support structures and recruitment are not in place that includes significant numbers of young people. I think they are, and our observation to the contrary may be because we don't recognize the art forms or because the new art is more than likely drifting into commercial art forms such as design, advertising, internet exchange, including blogs, as well as new pathways such as satellite or non-terrestrial radio and web-casting. I think that disciplines like visual art and music that include heavily digitized arts are thriving when more traditional performing art may not be. I know I have been amazed to find a whole subculture of young people who shift their job duties from one project to the next, now a videographer, now a composer, now a producer, now a promotional person. Do they consider themselves arts administrators? Maybe. Maybe not.
I will try and buttress my perspective using data from different places this week including participation studies. Neither do I want to belittle the very real age gap that most of do observe. There is no question that for the art forms that we have served for the past thirty years that there is a paucity of young people filling the ranks. I do hope we have the courage to actually go out and ask young people to tell their story the way they see it. I will leave it there for now.
Cora, help us narrow this discussion.
I'd like to focus on just two aspects concerning the next generation of arts leaders: Training and mentorship, and leadership succession in arts organizations.
On the first issue of training and mentorship, I actually think we're doing a pretty good job creating opportunities and nurturing talent across many sectors of the arts field. There are formalized programs in the academy for arts administrators, and a number of excellent field-based programs being offered by Americans for the Arts, Arts Presenters, and others.
I think of programs like the Getty Internships, too, that provide both a selection process and salary support to help create meaningful experiences for young people as cultural workers in arts organizations. So on the intake side of the equation, I think it looks promising.
Which brings me to the second issue of leadership succession in arts organizations - the "there, there" for many next generation arts leaders who have talent and commitment and training, but not necessarily a place to go. On this side of the equation I think we get very low marks. It really saddens me that even in small, mid-sized, culturally-specific and community-based arts organizations, there's so much reluctance to give next generation leadership a chance. There are some exceptions, of course.
But a lot of boards (of directors) are afraid to take a chance on up-and-coming leadership, even when those very organizations were founded by young leaders themselves. And there aren't many funders who are supporting long-range or inter-generational leadership succession either, which would be a powerful tool and send a positive signal to the field that this is a good thing to do.
Andrew, where are we at then?
From my various perspectives on this question -- as the director of an MBA degree in Arts Administration, as an attendee of many roundtables and conferences that involve leadership and succession discussions, and as an avid reader of studies and initiatives on "emerging leaders" -- I'd say we're getting a mixed report card.
Almost every event I attend among established arts professionals includes a griping session on how we don't have a next generation of leaders in the pipeline. And almost every conversation I hear among younger professionals includes a complaint that they're not taken seriously, or given space to grow.
There's a fundamental disconnect at work, it seems, and not just a generational one. We are swimming in competent, creative, and innovative younger prospects, but we walk around as if we're parched.
It may be our persistent metaphors about "professionalizing" our organizations by modeling the hierarchy and command and control of the corporate world (which, ironically, the corporate world is abandoning). It may be our lack of integrated and responsive human resource knowledge. But I continue to get the feeling that the nonprofit arts industry is systematically squandering it's greatest resource by losing the hearts and minds and commitments of younger staff.
What I've come to believe is this: the conversation complaining about a lack of next-generation leadership is really bemoaning a lack of next-generation leadership that "looks like us". The next generation of leader, and the next generation of arts organization, is going to look quite different than the versions of the past three decades.
They'll have a different life/work balance. They'll have a different approach to engaging audiences, boards, volunteers, and citizens. If they don't, we're all in trouble.
To me, the answer to the perceived leadership crisis is to open our eyes...to new ways of working, to meaningful opportunities for meaningful work, to healthier and more focused institutions that don't eat the lives of their laborers.
Some will complain that we don't have the money or the time to rethink how we support and retain younger managers, and grow them into leadership roles. I would suggest that, as in most other things, it's not the money that makes this work. It's the meaningful and powerful connections we have available to us, and the excitement of working for an organization that's always learning, always striving, and always searching for a better way to connect.
I'm eager to hear what others have to say...
I think Andrew makes some very good points about how the next generation of arts leaders will look different than us; this is something that we old folks should celebrate. However, I fear that we don't really know how to understand and use those differences. One of my younger staff gave me a book to read about the different cultures of the boomers and gen-xers. It was very eye-opening to me and gave me a much needed perspective. Issues included differences in the generations in long-term commitment to an institution and loyalty; length of attention span; balance of home and work. When I reflected on my own biases and an understanding of different motivations of younger staff, I was much happier as a supervisor and mentor and did a much better job.
I think that the point made by Sam Miller about conferences and face to face convening is an important one. As organizations have grown, budgets still often provide for only one person to attend a conference, leaving several professionals back home without the opportunity to participate. It's my opinion that our professional associations need to rethink the ways in which we convene, and not always at the cost of an airline ticket.
Isn't it interesting that so many of us seem to agree that the field knows the importance of embracing young leaders, yet we all can tell so many stories of organizations and leaders that simply do not? It's the difference between the forest and the trees - recognizing a systemic need but then finding the levers at the ground level to act on it. What if we flipped this question on it's head and asked - how are we equipping the "established" (not the best word, but I can't think of another one) leaders to groom their
Could you give us the title of the book and some key points that you remember?
Possibly one of the items to be added to the job descriptions of senior leaders is training/developing the next generation of leaders. I also believe that succession planning is crucial. Although some great work on this was done by the Illinois Arts Alliance, it seems that few organizations have read their handbook and even fewer have implemented anything.
The last public comment raises the issue of "pay", and points out that it is difficult to attract the "best and the brightest" (or anyone) given that compensation in the arts isn't market competitive, most arts organizations don't provide any kind of retirement plan (and an alarming number don't even provide heath coverage). While compensation has been rising at the larger cultural institutions, most arts organizations are still "mom and pop" sized. I suppose people enter a field for a variety of reasons - money, the chance to use and hone their skills and accomplish something, the relationships with co-workers, fun and job satisfaction, and, perhaps most importantly, the sense of doing something that matters. But if the money isn't very good, if the demands of 'fund raising' take more and more time, which, coupled with inadequate available funding, mean less ability to use one's skills and do what one is good at, and the stress obviates against the "fun" factor, will the feeling of doing important work be enough to attract good people? As Sam pointed out and Jerry echoed, we can't even afford to send younger leaders to our conferences. What can we do about the issue of leadereship and succession funding, given that the programs demand all the funds raised?
Barry, I think that the issue of low wages combined with the mounting pressure on arts organizations to raise operating funds are important ones, but I'd like to go back to an earlier thread (or two) concerning why we aren't seeing more emerging talent taking on leadership positions, and what we can do about it.
It seems pretty clear that there is younger talent out there, but that there's something broken in the system that is preventing their succession into leadership positions. Perhaps what Andrew said is true - that current leaders aren't finding younger versions of themselves and, by extension, aren't willing to consider a "new breed" of younger leaders. I hope this isn't true! But I think I agree most with Jodi's line of thinking - that we know there's a problem in the field, but haven't figured out which levers to use on the ground, in organizations, to force the entire system to grapple with succession issues.
So how do we get everyone's attention in our system? We could require direct accountability on succession issues as part of the grantmaking process. We could shine a light on best practices for having succession plans, as Jodi suggests, as part of executive job descriptions or as part of executive professional development efforts. We also need to have adequate study and documentation of the "new" skill-set and qualifications of arts leaders in a post-Enron world so that board members who do the hiring can understand that younger, well-qualified arts administrators can bring as much or more to the job as going outside to hire a non-arts leader.
Most of all, the field has to stick with the issue - it's not going to get solved overnight!
I think the issue at hand here is not that we don't have money for conferences and professional development, it's that we don't have organizational structures that give young managers opportunities to do their jobs with proper resources, and established managers channels to train and embrace those managers. I've always struggled with the issue that arts/culture and many other non-profit orgs just "can't" or "won't" pay their staff what they deserve for the work they do, and I'd like to advance the likely unpopular idea that until the pool of people willing to work for low wages and no healthcare dries up, this trend will continue. There are enough passionate people out there to keep the engine limping along, and thank goodness for that. But what would happen if we took a close look at how we "should" compensate people for their work, and decided that if we can't compensate people properly, we shouldn't be in business? We are afraid to challenge the current model and demand the resources needed to do our jobs right. Because what if we did, and our community said it's not worth it?
Barry, your question about compensation and financial benefits raises two larger, more ecological issues.
First, the size of the total labor pool is soon to take a major dip as the Boomers move toward retirement and other factors that grew the labor pool over the past decades decline as well. This will place an even more competitive pressure on young leaders from the commercial sector, which will be ever more hungry for talent.
Second, as we've discussed in past on-line, there's a growing sense that the professional nonprofit cultural infrastructure may be overbuilt, that is, unsustainable at its current scope and scale. The influx of labor, wealth, and untapped audiences that formed our industry as it now stands may all be flattening out.
These external pressures suggest to me, again, that the arts organization of tomorrow will be leaner, more focused, and more thoughtful about ALL the resources that flow through it (artistic talent, administrative talent, earned income, contributed income, volunteers, social capital, and so forth).
Problem is, few arts organization were ever recognized and rewarded for getting SMALLER.
I think that Shannon's point about the importance of integrating emerging leaders into the conversation is an excellent one. In Arizona we've conducted several emerging leaders conversations both with WESTAF and Americans for the Arts, as well as independently. By and large one of the most widespread and simplest to address needs of emerging leaders that I've heard is one of mentorship. I have been extremely fortunate to have some very generous folks take me under their wings and simply introduce me to others, allow me to be a part of meetings, and serve as a resource to answer my questions. Talking to ourselves in emerging leaders groups is valuable in terms of networking and identifying key issues, but if we are not integrated into the larger conversation our needs will not truly be addressed.
Secondly, a recommendation I would make to any "emerging leader" is to get involved with their locally based leadership groups. I am currently in Valley Leadership, and this gives me the opportunity to network with other young professionals in a variety of fields, to receive a broad range of information about my community, and to develop relationships with alumni of that program that have gone on to be important local leaders. When we integrate emerging arts leaders in with emerging leaders in government, large corporations, and other nonprofits we also connect our fields with the broader community, which is essential to its perceived relevancy and public value. Not only is this a good succession plan, it is a good business and advocacy plan.
Third: How do I know when I've "emerged"?
The comments about succession planning, retirement funds, health benefits, salaries, etc. encouraged me to think again how undercapitalized we are as a field. Whether it's about raising more capital or shifting it away from groups with failed business models (as Andrew Taylor alluded), a long term capital strategy is a necessity. Possibly the banker in the group, Mr. Miller, might have some ideas.
In addition to being under-capitalized, our decentralized structures encourage many inefficiencies that could be addressed through economies of scale.
Our peer review panel processes, while meritorious, suck time out of panelists lives that can never be retrieved, taking hours away from raising money, running the organization and our personal relationships and time. Is there another way?
One of the great contributions the next generation of leaders could make to this field is to come up with solutions to some of these (and other) problems. We elders haven't been able to come up with solutions, maybe it's time to create some task forces of younger people to take on some of the big issues of our field. In fact, maybe this blog space could be the place for that conversation.
I was involved in a national task force when I was 39 years old. It met for a year and a half, engaged commentaries from over 150 people, and in the end produced a publication entitled An American Dialogue. Maybe it's time for another national task force.
The topic I'd choose is: The Arts Organizations of the Future (The Year 2015). We'd have the people who'll be running those organizations be the ones to serve on the task force. Any volunteers?
There's a body of leadership training and theory that I thought would be important to mention. It's described as leading from the middle, leading up, leading with limited authority, three hundred sixty degree leadership.
It's about developing the skills to lead an organization from whatever place you happen to be at the moment. Mike Useem, Ronald Heifetz and John Maxwell are the 3 authors I've read on the topic.
One possible idea would be to have a moving workshop that could be developed and then move from location to location. And it'd be best if were facilitated by people of a younger generation. Possibly some of Andrew's recent graduates or others could be the workshop facilitators. Let me know if you'd like some reference materials.
Cora mentions that the Boards that hire the Executive Directors (and many, many arts organizations have scant staffing beyond an Executive Director), may need a wholesale re-orientation as to the skill sets they should be looking for when making the 'hiring' decision, and Andrew points out that the future leaders may not fit the current mold of what we perceive to be the qualifications we seek in future leaders. So how do we get out of the proverbial box in terms of our thinking about succession so that we become more attractive to younger leadership?
We've come a long way in the past two decades in the arts, but we've been stuck on many fronts. As the baby boomers retire and the graying reaches in apex, as succession happens one way or the other, do we need some kind of radical change in the kind of leadership we attract? How do we attract and integrate into our matrix the next generatioin of the best and the brightest then? What about Cora's suggestion that grant funding be predicated on change of thinking and approach by grantees in the area? Can we mandate that kind of change in thinking? Isn't Lisle right in suggesting that we start by trying to change our own perception of how we go about attracting younger leaders by helping current leaders re-think the issue? How do we do that? What about Jerry's suggestion that we institutionalize the dialogue in some way, as a start? What about some kind of pilot program that takes greater risks in handing over the reins to new people - as a controlled experiment?
If one looks at the job postings in the arts, one sees the same litany of qualifications being sought - the same skills the candidate should possess. Can we begin by taking a long look at that and try to revamp the thinking behind that approach? What should we be looking for in new leadership? How necessary is experience in the arts or nonprofit field? What exactly do we mean by "superior oral and written skills"? Does the expectation of "a proven record in fundraising" really mean anything?
This morning, I received an e-newsletter from next generation consulting http://www.nextgenerationconsulting.com/ Amongst other projects, they're doing some work in Indianapolis to reach the next generation of audiences. I was referred to them by Rob Cline, Marketing Director at Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa, who's convened a group of x-gen workers to market to x-gen audiences.
Suggest you may want to get the report described below.
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Who Will Win The Battle To Redefine The Workplace?
By Tony DiRomualdo
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The winner of this battle will determine whether the rules and mores of the workplace change dramatically or remain largely the same.
How is this battle currently unfolding? A newly released study, "Manifesto for the New Agile Workplace" describes the players in this fierce fight to define the workplace rules of engagement. It provides new insights into what different groups of knowledge workers think about their current 'employment deals' and the changes in their working and employment arrangements that they seek most.
Drawing on research led by Career Innovation, a think tank based in Oxford, United Kingdom, and conducted by an international team of experts including Next Generation Workplace, the study findings turn some of the conventional wisdom about knowledge workers on its head.
The executive summary of the report is available free at: http://www.careerinnovation.com/employers/index.cfm?Articleid=364&articleaction=requestform&reportid=cimanifesto.
I am first responding to the thought about panelists and panel review. I think that the discussions that panelists have regarding grants review can be a very vital professional development opportunity for both emerging leaders and people new into the community. I think the value of the learning and discussion goes far beyond the actual recommendations regarding grants. They learn what is happening in the community, how different applicants present themselves, how the actual panelists react to that information in relation to the grantees and to each other on the panel.
As far as the book about the different styles of boomers and gen xers, I am trying to locate the title and author.
But my memories; there is a different sense of loyalty to an organization with younger folks than the older. The older were more likely to stay in a position much longer; but the younger folks have seen organizations that are not loyal to their employees (reducing pensions, downsizing, eliminating positions near retirement); thus younger people say why should I be loyal when the organization is not loyal to me. Attention span: with technology and multi-tasking, does the old style of working keep the interest and attention of younger staff. When a younger staff member becomes frustrated or bored, they are much more likely to look for different opportunities regardless of the monetary rewards.
Younger staff are much more inclined to seek balance between life at work and outside of work. It is important, I believe, to remember some of these things when giving feedback to younger staff.
This is such a multi-faceted conversation, I'm not quite sure where to begin. Obviously this whole discussion points to the multitude of issues that are currently facing the arts field, and how the next generation of arts leaders plays a part in all of it. When Jerry proposes a national dialogue about how the arts field will look in 10-15 years, I can't help but think that it is bound to look extremely different, unless the young leaders currently being brought up in the system learn to adopt, wholesale, the system as it currently exists. I find the prospect of a new culture and structure of the arts in this country really dynamic and exciting. But what do we do? Become founders of our own organizations that will, in 40 years, be facing extinction once we're out of the picture? How do we continually invite new energy and perspectives into our work?
I believe that younger artistic/cultural workers see the greatest opportunity outside of the NEA/SAA/LAA framework. Many of them are even being so bold as to think outside of the 501(c)3 box! New approaches are being created, and artistically-inclined, entrepenurially-friendly structures are being embraced by younger generations. For this generation, the situation is no longer for-profit "entertainment" versus non-profit arts.
On another note, while reading the discussion about the salary issue, I couldn't help but disagree. I am probably paid nowhere near my corporate-working peers, but frankly I wouldn't know because most of those that I would consider my friends and peers do not work in that field--they are committed to working for things that they believe in, like the environment, women's rights issues, social justice, etc. My point being that, ultimately, my decision to work in the arts is not about money, it's about doing something that I care about every day, and feeling fulfilled in what I do. For my generation, I don't think I'm alone in that feeling.
Thanks to all for the great conversation this week. I hope it's the beginning of several such discussions among people who can make meaningful change, even if only in a single organization, or a single department.
I'll admit that I'm prone to explore the systemic problems that stand in our way -- the contraction of the labor pool, the lack of available capital, the absense of human resource knowledge in arts organizations. The tide is obviously against us, but we can still make a remarkable difference if we swim in small and simple strokes.
I've just been reading Jim Collins' ''social sector'' addendum to his business book "Good to Great", he frames the issue this way:
"It might take decades to change the entire systemic context, and you might be retired or dead by the time those changes come. In the meantime, what are you going to do 'now'?....You must retain faith that you can prevail to greatness in the end, while retaining the discipline to confront the brutal facts of your current reality. What can you do 'today' to create a pocket of greatness, despite the brutal facts of your environment?"
So, let's keep looking for leverage points in the larger system of leadership, but let's also pause to make meaningful connections with the promising leaders among us -- younger, older, mid-career, whatever. Those individual connections defy the tide.
So where do we go from here? There are numerous programs across the country addressing these issues - the outstanding programs of Americans for the Arts, including their Emerging Leadership program, the Illinois program Jerry referred to earlier in the week, and doubtless scores of others. So how do we take the "best practices" and apply them systemically - to the extent possible? I have been working on a mapping and assessment project for the Hewlett Foundation on Youth Involvement in the Arts, and the first phase - a comprehensive survey of nearly 300 arts organizations in California - is now complete, and the data is being analyzed. It will tell us the extent to which the younger arts leadership sits on boards of directors, comprises paid staff, is being actively recruited and much more. Publication should be in the fall of this year, and I hope that report, like this dialogue, will shine a spotlight on these issues so that more people in the field can begin to consider what we might do to increase younger leadership attendance at conferences, put more younger people on boards of directors, figure out how to recruit the next generation of leaders in what is sure to be an increasingly competitive market, and address the issue of how best to equip the new leadership with resources and skills for them to do their jobs.
We must, I think, carry the ball forward with ideas like's Jerry's for a national focus on the issue, and like Cora's suggestion that funders might get involved. We must also explore thoughts such as those put forth by Andrew, Shelley and others as to critically examining our own limitations in how we perceive new leadership, succession, transition etc. And we must expand how the current leadership listens to those outstanding younger professionals already in our ranks - and embrace the new ideas like those put forward by our guest panelists this week.
So I ask each of you - is there one specific thing you might recommend we, as a field, do now? And, what final thoughts do you have to share?
To take the conversation from the systemic to the personal - I recommend that we all consider two things.
1. Remember a mentor you've had. Leaders very rarely get anywhere without smart, passionate people on their side. Remember what that mentor did for you; did he/she listen to you, challenge you, invite you to the table, debate all of these issues about salary, work/life balance, purpose of art, etc? Remember what you valued about that person or persons, and try to bring those qualities to your colleagues.
2. Realize that in most cases, opportunity is not presented - it must be sought out and taken. We've listed a number of tremendous resources and paths for emerging (and established) leaders to take in this blog. But all the systemic changes in the world won't matter if the present and future leaders of our field don't reach out with both hands and say "I am ready to take on this challenge."
It's been a great pleasure to join this conversation. Thank you to Barry and everyone involved. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Happy St. Patrick's Day.
Today's Chicago Tribune had a story on non-profit execs leaving orgs http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/C/CAMPUS_THEATERS?SITE=COSTE&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
Also I was able to download and read the Manifesto for the New Agile Workplace by Tony DiRomualdo and Joanathan Winter. It's free until March 29, so I would suggest downloading it soon.
They suggest the need for totally different work formats and structures - for both non-profits and for-profits.
I would suggest the creation of a small working group from across the sector - presenters, local arts agencies, producing orgs, museums, foundations, etc. - maybe AFTA could take the lead here because of the work done thus far. This group might work with resources that specialize in these issues, such as nextgeneration consulting. A small project proposal could be developed and then presented to some funders for consideration. For example, possibly Diane Ragsdale of the Mellon Foundation might be willing to convene a followup conversation to this year's GIA discussion.
It's been good to be part of this conversation. Have a great St. Paddy's day weekend.
I want to thank all the group regulars, and especially our younger guest participants - Marialaura Leslie, Shannon Daut, Jodi Beznoska, and Lisle Soukup - for a very good discussion on this important topic. And thanks to Jamie Bignall for her help.
I urge everyone to visit the Emerging Leaders section of Americans for the Arts website to see everything that is going on in this area. Click here: www.artsusa.org It's under the Field Services banner at the top.
And those of you who aren't subscribers to Andrew Taylor's The Artful Manager blog, you should be -- it is one of the best resources in our field - intelligent, insightful, challenging. Click here: http://www.artsjournal.com/artfulmanager/
Finally, check out the Center for Cultural Innovation, led by Cora Mirikitani. Click here:
Next HESSENIUS GROUP starts Tuesday, April 11th. Mark your calendars.
Happy end of St. Patrick's Day. Have a great weekend everybody.
And remember: Don't Quit.