Thursday, March 25, 2010

Leadership in the Arts

Thomas, Marilyn Taft. Leadership in the Arts. Arthur House, Indiana: 2008.

So here are some memorable quotes from this book:

(ps. I HIGHLYHIGHLYHIGHLYHIGHLY recommend this book for those in this business)

Chapter 1: Working With People in the Arts:

- “Effective leadership begins with a deep understanding and appreciation of the people you must lead” (1)

- “Even some artists in the middle of brilliant careers may need periodic fixes in their self- esteem- perhaps continual reassurance- because deep down, they may not be sure they re good enough” (4)

- “It is the leader’s job to reinforce these strengths, to remind them of their value to the institution they serve, and to make certain the insecurities that hover, overhead, those vultures of self esteem, do not swoop down and smother the creative environment” (5)

- “Working together is a concept every performer should be able to handle” (6)

- “An inability to see themselves as people separate from their roles as artists and master teachers can cause artists to over-personalize absolutely everything” (7)

- “When we step back and consider the reality of the artist, we have yet to realize that in the organizational setting, the administration is the conductor or the director, who really controls the artists ability to gain applause- the person capable of making or breaking their careers.” (7-8)

- “A complex organizational structure is like a bowl of Jell-O; you can’t touch any part of it without setting the whole substance into reactive motion” (8)

- “If you really want people to buy into the mission of the institution, there has to be a sense of fulfillment in helping to make things happen” (15)

- “The goal is to minimize job satisfaction, not to squeeze every ounce of life out of the people on your staff” (16)

- “If you can possibly avoid it, don’t hire staff with serious training in the arts area you lead” (19)

- Work is just like war: “…territorial disputes, battles over essential resources, major cultural differences, power struggles, and just downright aggressiveness.” (21)

- “Bottom line: make it clear to everyone involved that people don’t have to live each other; but they do have to work together- peacefully and productively” (22)

- “The trick is to find the wizard who is willing to work for nothing. Good luck!” (23)

- “One of life’s greatest joys is knowing you have left someone better than you found them” (26)

Chapter 2: Becoming a Leader

- “The effective leader is a master of motivation. (S)he understands to the core how people feel, why they feel as they do, and what it would take to move them beyond their personal needs towards the greater good of the group or the organization. (S)he cares deeply about these individuals, yet understands clearly the relationships of the various parts to the whole” (29)

- “Doing things right is essential.” (30)

- “It is not too soon to start taking notes on problems, issues, and new ideas as they surface in these individual meetings, to be folded in to the organizational strategic plan” (35)

- “When you set out to fix an environment, you need to know what is broken.” (40)

- “Your most important first task is to give them the assurance that you are capable, with their help, of doing that and much more.” (42)

- “You are not the other guy, so don’t try to be” (43).

- “morale suffers most when such cutbacks are handled with callous disregard for the people involved.” (46)

- “morale is a symptom, not a disease; so you need to diagnose the root problem or problems and go to work on them.” (47)

- “Sometimes, the small gestures have enormous significance” (51)

- “You are who you are.” (57)

- “building a new network of personal support is critical to you emotional health.” (59)

- “….after all, everybody judges the leader, even when they have very little data with which to make such a judgment. “ (64)

- “…. the greatest importance is not what data, you share, but how you share it” (65).

Chapter 3: Taking Charge

- “Simply by finding yourself in a number of situations in which your leadership is essential to the very survival of the organization you run” (74).

- “One of the greatest importance is developing a system that shows you respect each individual’s time and self worth.” (81)

- “One rule of thumb is to make sure you spend at least part of every day working on issues requiring strong leadership; don’t let the administrative details of the job completely consume you.” (85)

- “As a leader, you need to develop a highly sensitive antenna for change; you need to be able to see it coming, to smell it, hear it, taste it and feel it.” (95)

- “The toughest things about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success” – Irving Berlin quoted in Theatre Arts (100)

- “You know , the bigger the risk, the more likely you are to succeed, because huge risks have enormous consequences, you cant afford to fail” (103)

- “Artists’ work is noisy, messy and wonderful. It is the nature of the beast called the arts school to be chaotic. The temptation for the highly organized manager may be to try to keep things under control- to not take one anything more until you get this stuff done” (105).

- “When you have delegated everything there is to delegate, and you still cant keep up with the job, you know there is a problem” (110)

Chapter 4: Handling the Finances

- “As the leader of this arts organization, you cannot let it all come down to a battle between aesthetics and money” (123)

- “Determining the greatest current needs for the long-range health of your arts organization should be the core of your strategic planning process” (126)

Chapter 5: Making Decisions & Implementing Them

- “Doing the right thing is easy. Its determining the right thing to do that is so tough” – Lyndon B. Johnson (rpt 157)

- “Under no circumstances, should you start doing other people’s jobs. Yours is already plenty big enough” (161).

- “Thinking out loud and testing some new ideas on a safe partner may just what you need before running off and doing something really dumb” (167).

- “The needs of your organization are more important that your ego” (172)

- “The ability to say ‘No’, when necessary, is absolutely critical to good-decision making.” (173).

Chapter 6: Communicating

- “If you don’t need [communication and teamwork] to accomplish a goal, don’t waste peoples time. Do it some other way” (195).

- “When you are in charge, it is your responsibility to make sure the meeting is effective, and the people who attend go away feeling good about the time they spent there” (204).

- “Don’t think its OK to use it, if you define it; if you have to define something, you shouldn’t be using it. Speak English” (213).

Chapter 7: Handling Personnel Issues

- “Your goal is to try to look between the lines of their resumes to determine who would go beyond the written job description and really excel in this position” (240).

- “We deal in very subjective definitions of excellence, and the reputation of our institution depends solely on the quality of the art we create- that of our alumni, our artist/faculty, and our students” (250).

- “One of the most difficult aspects of managing people is the personal element involved” (255).

- “You are a target, because you are in charge of a large and complex organization; you potentially bear responsibility for much of what happens within this organization and you can be sued for many of the things that people say or do to others, while working in the environment” (262-263).

Chapter 8: Working within the System & Beyond

- “Anyone can go to work and just get through the day. The real leader is not satisfied with that; (s)he has at least one eye on the future of the arts unit at all time” (271).

Epilogue: Making a Difference in the Future of the Arts

- “Leadership is all about moving past the gate, pushing boundaries out of the way, forging ahead in spite of perceived road blocks- and, oh yes, carrying an organization full of skeptics, hopeful followers, and a few die-hard opponents right along with you” (308)

- “Leadership requires action when you don’t really have to act, speaking up when no one has asked for your opinion” (308).

- “As the leader of an arts unit, you may be expected to know about anything and everything that is going on in the world, pertaining to the arts; since nobody has time to meet this standard, you will just have to do the best you can to stay informed” (313).

- “Even your finest effort is going to feel like a failure, if you don’t accept the impossibility of the task at hand” (319).

- “Learn to live with loose ends; you will have a zillion of these all the time. Some days, you will feel as though you accomplished nothing. Yet, you know you worked your butt off” (320).

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