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Shahina Johnson, Create Studios

Shahina Johnson

Shahina Johnson is the CEO and Artistic Director at Create Studios, a digital media organization with an award-winning track record for outreach and diverse talent development.

When Shahina applied to the Chief Executive Program, Create Studios was preparing to pitch a make-or-break proposal for National Portfolio funding from Arts Council England. Her key interest in the program was to focus on setting her organization up for greater sustainability.

While leading an organization through change, especially during a rough patch as Shahina was doing, it’s important to effectively engage your team around you. “Being taken out of your comfort zone and looking at decisions that made your organization vulnerable was tough,” Shahina says. “But the Chief Executive Program’s lessons helped me build skills that create even more value for our community and the support of my incredible cohort helped me share a vision more effectively with both partners and my team.”

The strong bonds Shahina developed with her cohort have helped Create Studios define its place in the global ecosystem and connected her with an international network that is leading to partnerships. “For someone to invest in our leadership development at this level is quite extraordinary,” Shahina says. “We all need input. We all need resources. We all need a spring from which to fill, and I think NAS has been an extremely important resource for me intellectually and professionally. It has changed how I view my organization.”

For Shahina, the most striking moment of the program came during the convening in Michigan while quickly listing leadership characteristics in a timed exercise. “It took me until I was 49 years old and a decade of heading up my organization to realize I’m okay as a leader,” Shahina says. “Having that moment to reflect on my leadership became an epiphany. It’s a lesson I want to share. Because if I was like that, there must be so many other people who don’t feel a validity around their leadership skills when perhaps they should.”