Arts Business Magazine

Leadership: the art and heart

So much has been written on the subject of leadership, yet effective leaders, remain a rare and precious commodity, writes Bob Maurer. Perhaps this is because so much of the writing is like cookbooks, full of recipes based on how someone created a great result at least for a period of time. Yet like many a cookbook, when you try to repeat their recipe, the results are sometimes disappointing. Because the situation in which you work, the cast of characters, the scenery, the audience, the finances, and pressures, are never exactly the same, anyone's recipe for success in the past may not help you anticipate and plan for the future. With this in mind, let's look at some principles of leadership that have been found by researchers who have studied successful organizations 50 to 200 years old. To distill this literature to its essence two skills appear.

Defining purpose
Firstly, the leaders define the purpose of the organization in a few words, describing why this group of people is gathered and what they arc reaching for ..often described in what has now become a cliché as 'the vision'. This is very hard to do. Is your purpose to create art? To entertain? To make a profit? To educate? What is your primary purpose to which all other agendas are subjugated? These are not easy questions to answer and perhaps hardest of all in an arts organization that is forced to straddle the worlds of creativity and business. Often the questions go unanswered leaving the organizational ship with a compass, a rudder, but no map and no clear destination other than to survive. It is not enough to say "we are in the business of creating plays or dance or music". These are the means, the product, but for what purpose do we exist?

Interpersonal relationship
The second skill of successful leaders is that they focus on their relationships with people, not the products, as their first priority. They have mastered the distinction between management and leadership. You manage things, you lead people. The founders of Sony, for example, gathered a small group of people together in a room, people that they wanted to work with, then created a product and when that product failed, they tried again. Along the way, they created an effective working team, an ability to support one another, and learn from mistakes. Effective leaders know that there are three qualities necessary to do a job: competence, character, and commitment to an organization's vision. Of the three, the first is less important for you can always train people to improve their technical skills, but building their character and their willingness to share the group's purpose is much harder. The leader who creates a truly effective group knows they must treat their staff the way they want the audience, the customers, to be treated. All too often, the pressures of work lead to an atmosphere of blame and fear rather than creativity and passion fueling the collective energies of the staff. As the saying goes, "life is simple but not easy" and this is true, of course, of leadership. In the interest of efficiency, we sometimes sacrifice effectiveness and follow the words of the American baseball manager Yogi Berra when he said "we're lost but we are making great time."

The simple but not easy strategies for leadership are to create a purpose for your organization, a value that will be the north star for you and anyone who works or is served by you and your staff; hire people who share the value, have the attitudes that permit them to work with passion and compassion, and then as you go through the day, ask these people, "how can I help?

-Artsbusines, 30, August, 99

Robert Maurer, Ph.D. Is a clinical psychologist, a faculty member Of the MA School (if Medicine In California and a consultant to theatre companies and industries throughout the UAW States. He has consulted with the Demgate Theatre for the fast eight years and is available for braining and consultations.

t: 001 310 383 8051 f: 001 310 393 5659 E;