Peter C. Brinckerhoff, (St. Paul: Fieldstone Alliance, 2007), “Change Is Upon Us,” pp. 11-34, “Financial Implications,” pp. 185-189.
Sustainable performing arts organizations understand their audiences. Sustainable museums understand their visitors. Audiences and visitors change, generations differ and their impact on operations, marketing and finance shifts over time. For cultural organizations to stay in touch with their publics is a full time task. The eminently readable “Generations…,” winner of the 2008 McAdam Award for the best nonprofit management book, examines six trends involving generational change: financial stress, technological acceleration, population diversity, family redefinition, “mebranding” and work-life balance. Of these, “mebranding” or ultra-customization is particularly interesting. A growing minority has become used to and demands highly tailored products, services and experiences. Technology has accelerated the expectation of the highly customized offering. Like most challenges, it can be viewed as a problem, an opportunity or both.
Audiences and visitors are not the only lenses through which Brinckerhoff looks at the implications of generational differences. All the same influences are at play within cultural organizations’ boards, staff and volunteers. Generational data (demographics and psychographics) don’t argue for turning an organization’s strategy on its head, much less calling for modifications in mission and vision. For Brinckerhoff, the data should have an appropriate influence in six ways. The data should: be included in planning, trigger intergenerational conversations within the organization, be used in marketing, broaden the concept of diversity in hiring decisions, influence consideration of ways technology might add value to cultural experiences or extend their effect following a performance or museum visit and inspire leaders to ask and listen more often.
James C. Collins, (Boulder: Jim Collins, 2005), Monograph to accompany Good to Great.
A short read—an essay really—this piece adapts the principles of Good to Great to the nonprofit sector. Collins addresses five issues: defining greatness, the exercise of leadership within a diffuse power structure, getting the right people “on the bus” (many wish he had added a section on getting the wrong people “off the bus”), rethinking economics in a sector without a profit motive and building momentum by building the brand. Collins emphasizes discipline and sustainability.
Collins’ little red book has been widely and usefully read by executive directors of museums and managing directors of performing arts organizations. It has added value to their professional development as leaders. However, they have paid little attention to the book’s very important subtitle, Why Business Thinking Is Not the Answer, and, therefore, the book’s high potential for stimulating a shift in a board’s default mantra. Collins, highly respected in the for-profit world, offers an at-a-glance summary of the crucial differences between business and the social sectors.
Jean Lipman-Blumen, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), Originally published as The Connective Edge: Leading in an Interdependent World (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996), “New World, New Leadership,” pp. 3-27, “The Connective Organization, Matching Leadership and Organizational Styles,” pp. 257-285.
The environment shared by for-profits and nonprofits has remarkable similarities: a global economy afflicted with major uncertainties; collaboration among competitors such as Apple and IBM; and much troubled leadership models, e.g., command and control, manipulative and Machiavellian and “nice guy – team leaders,” as Lipman-Blumen suggests. She argues that two antithetical forces, interdependence and diversity, are generating tensions that will fundamentally change the conditions under which leaders must lead and that to succeed in this dramatically altered environment where inclusion is critical and connection is inevitable, we need a new kind of leadership. Connective Leadership describes that new leadership as “one that is more politically savvy and instrumental, yet more ethical, authentic, accountable, and, particularly, more ennobling.”
Three research streams inform this work. Lipman-Blumen has done qualitative research—mostly interviews with leaders from the for-profit and the nonprofit sectors. The second research stream involves historical, biographical and autobiographical sources. The third is quantitative, based on two instruments: the Achieving Styles Inventory and the Organizational Achieving Styles Inventory. The author uses more than five thousand cases collected and analyzed since 1984. Lipman-Blumen’s perspectives also draw on a wide range of her consulting experience in government, business and the social sector. Part One examines the origins and evolution of the human need for leadership. Part Two presents the Connective Leadership Model in detail. Part Three explores the empirical organizational results and the philosophical implications of the Model.
David Cray, Loretta Inglis and Susan Freeman, The Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, Vol. 36, Number 4 (Winter 2007): pp. 295-313.
The dual functions of guiding artistic or educational activities and an organization’s administration—even in the best-run museums and performing arts companies fosters structural complexity, competing sets of goals, multiple stakeholder claims and values in some tension with one another. The distinct nature of cultural organizations arises not simply from their missions, but also from the complexity that multiple demands impose. As the authors put it, “…the strategic decision-making process encounters forces, especially those of an aesthetic nature, that conflict with the more rationalist orientation inherent in the managerialist approaches that (these) organizations are being urged to accept. Our aim, in both instances, is to draw heavily on the existing managerial literature to provide greater understanding of the range of roles that cultural organization managers must fill while acknowledging the distinct nature of the environments they face.”
The authors demonstrate how the major leadership styles (charismatic, transactional, transformational and participatory) play into these tensions. Each style has its unique advantages and disadvantages but many researchers now hold that successful leaders have their “default” style. In other words, they work to match personal styles with the culture of the organization and the demands of its environment. The size of the organization, diversity of programs, internal political arrangements, relationships with external stakeholders, financial stability, institutional image, age and stage of growth or decline will impact the fit between a leader’s style and organizational effectiveness.
The article concludes with a very practical section on strategic decision-making in cultural organizations, covering rational models, decision making as a political exercise, incremental decision making (small bets and experiments) and “the garbage can: strategy as a pattern in random events.” Again, the appropriate model to use ought to be reached situationally. One size never really fits all.
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