About the collection

By    Sep 22, 2012
It isn’t difficult to find ideas on leadership. Amazon.com alone lists over 68,000 books on the topic. A quick search on Google provides over 439 million results. What we know to be difficult, based on our work with executives and staff from across the arts and culture sector, is identifying the thoughts on leadership that are most relevant to running a cultural organization and that are worth making the time to read.

This compendium brings together 21 articles on leadership that the Getty Leadership Institute at Claremont Graduate University and National Arts Strategies have identified specifically for busy arts and cultural professionals. It includes a mix of provocative articles and leadership classics on mission, organizational strategy, leadership skills and organizational culture. These writings together explore and, we hope, spark creative thinking about questions that are central to leadership in arts and cultural organizations today:

  • How do communities define and achieve their goals? How can arts and culture organizations engage their communities and play a meaningful role in realizing these community visions?
  • How do organizations achieve focus and remain nimble? How can cultural executives frame their thinking about organizational strategy to be more effective leaders for staff and board?
  • How can executives actively develop leadership skills? What can arts leaders understand about themselves, about others and about the process of leadership?
  • How does the structure of an organization support or limit a leader’s efforts? How do arts and cultural leaders craft a working environment that supports change and furthers their mission?


The 21 readings included in this compendium were selected through a deliberate research process. We started with the simple question, “What are the most pressing challenges facing arts and culture leaders?” We engaged a team of researchers to work with our staff to evaluate what the research-based literature on leadership had to say about these pressing questions. We looked at the ideas that professionals in the nonprofit, for-profit and government sectors find most useful, and we looked at the ideas being taught about leadership in business, public policy, education and other professional schools across the country.

We hope that you will find these readings as thought-provoking as we do. There are never easy answers to leading an organization or achieving a grand mission—and there are no easy answers in this collection. However, we do believe there are great questions here as well as great tools that can help arts and culture leaders think creatively about the challenge of cultural leadership.