Leading with the Pack
How do organizations decide the ways in which they govern themselves? What is behind the growing enthusiasm for transparency within our work environments? As with the rise of many new phenomena in our world, it may be helpful to consider the role of the creative community in inspiring the growing upheaval of the stayed traditions defining how organizations run themselves.
Artists know we cannot be easily defined, but one thing that unites us is our insatiable appetite for new experiences. Artists are experience junkies. We crave it. We want every kind we can have for ourselves and when we can’t have it, we seek out the best story tellers among us and listen closely to share in their unique experience. This is by no means a novel appreciation, but one that seems to outline the nature of how and why artists work together. When the content comes through personal experience and different people hold different experiences, it seems natural that an organization which intends to cultivate, curate, or share creative works should benefit from an inclusive governing structure. The cohesive collection of perspectives is what creates richness of content.
Recent economic trends indicate our country is experiencing a rise in the co-op business model—businesses owned by the workers themselves. This is a sharp divergence from the models of management we are most familiar with—largely, the privately and publicly owned models. The rationale for this shift is clear, though; many are unsatisfied with the conventional top-down approach to management and compensation decisions. Alternative structures of governance like these spread the power more broadly across the organization. This is not a revolutionary idea in its own right. The Artist Collective is a widely known structure in which artists collaborate closely to share resources and achieve management consensus. Though lacking the formality of the co-op business model, the principles behind this work approach remain the same. It is tempting to credit artists as the pioneers in our communities (yet again), but in a surprising capacity: redefining the very way we think about working together.
If the redistribution of resources and input were not reason enough, the digital revolution we find ourselves in has disrupted conventional barriers in hierarchical communication. We have access to affordable tools that allow us to more seamlessly and spontaneously synthesize feedback from across organizations. The result has been more nimble organizations capable of highly coordinated, collective action. Indeed, as our lives become more inundated with technology, we have also become more public. This has born a new wave of emerging workers who proclaim we are better off embracing transparency and decry the place of secrecy and collusion in our next generation.
When the inclination to band together in times of personal or national trauma is added to the aforementioned social observations, one can anticipate the rise—not the fall, as some mistakenly suggest—of collaborative working structures in the present and near future. It might be because we have learned it is beneficial to the creative sector, or as a response to social and economic circumstances. Whichever the reason for the change, the nature of leadership is changing. We don’t need harsher, more selfish delegators. We need influential social mobilizers capable of harnessing our collective intention and elevating each voice in the chorus. I argue it is Emerging Arts Leaders who understand this more than any and are best poised to make a lasting difference.