The fine folks over at EmcArts have recently launched a new project called ArtsFwd, which explores innovation (defined broadly) across the arts. I was invited to be a guest blogger, and will have several posts coming out in the next few months regarding innovative leadership, innovation and technology, and a host of other topics. Every week or so i’ll post a link here so that interested readers can stay apprised of what’s happening over at ArtsFwd. Please also check out the work of Eleanor Whitney, Karina Mangu-Ward, and any other folks contributing to the conversation over there. They (and you) have interesting and important things to say!

Here’s part of my post on shared leadership models in the arts; head over here to read the rest!:


Both in the arts and elsewhere, “leadership” sits atop a growing pile of buzzwords aimed at capturing the essence of what makes a successful organization, well, successful. But what makes for a great leader?

As a PhD candidate interested in this topic, I reached out to Scott DeRue, a professor at the University of Michigan and one of today’s leading experts on leadership. According to DeRue, CEOs and executive directors do not have to be authoritarians to ensure success. He instead argues that leadership can be considered “a series of acts that are distributed throughout a group or organization,” serving to coordinate individual goals and tackle the diverse challenges facing all complex institutions.

Recent research suggests that adaptive leaders, not heroic ones, are the most prosperous. One of the most powerful forms of adaptive leadership involves sharing executive responsibility with other employees and stakeholders (think, for instance, of a basketball team). Such distributive techniques should resonate especially well in the arts, where overlapping artistic and administrative structures can inhibit effective leadership. Navigating these different structures and leveraging internal dissension to enact change takes an incredible amount of trust and hard work, but the potential payoff is well worth it…

[keep reading here]