Arts LeadersFuture of Culture

What Will Arts Leadership Look Like in 2040?

By December 7, 2016 March 9th, 2017 No Comments

There’s a sea change coming for the arts and cultural sector—and not just in its audiences. Behind the footlights, traditional arts management structures are being challenged by intergenerational tension between older leaders who have worked long and hard to win their authority, and earlier-career professionals with higher college debt, accelerated career expectations, and an altogether different mindset about collaboration and shared decision-making.

In 2016, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation explored these topics and published A Changing Landscape: Moving Arts Leadership Forward, a fascinating report which makes specific recommendations for how arts organizations and their leaders can adapt.

“We are in the midst of a shift from a culture that favors clear lines of authority and hierarchy to one that prefers flatter, highly networked, and nonlinear systems and approaches,” writes the report’s author, Emiko Ono, a performing arts program officer for Hewlett Foundation, in the Fall 2016 edition of the Grantmakers in the Arts Reader. “We are in a period where positional status, hard-fought experience, and acquired wisdom are being rebalanced against calls for open access to information and opportunities, and an ethos in which the voices of all carry equal weight, regardless of position or experience.”

This report is essential reading for leaders in the cultural sector, along with anyone participating in a DUNCH recruitment process. Leadership recommendations made in the report include:

  1. Supporting individual career pathways through investments of time, money, and training—expanding leadership skills and opportunities for early- and mid-career leaders; preparing late-career leaders to make transitions that are both timely and sensible; and encouraging leaders at all levels to share responsibility.
  2. Building capacity for leadership to be distributed across generations to encourage leaders of all ages—who likely have varying levels of experience, formal training, values, and work styles—to engage in leading together.
  3. Ensuring support for fostering the shared values of diversity and innovation, to help the sector as a whole to remain competitive today and in the future.