Blog Posts for Leadership

We Sustain Each Other in Rougher Times

Posted by John Abodeely, Oct 19, 2009 1 comment

It’s a pleasure to be a part of such a great group of folks, discussing such a fascinating (and sometimes polarizing) subject. My name is John and I’m a program manager at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. I work in National Partnerships, serving the national network of state Alliances for Arts Education. I also help to dissemination the Kennedy Center’s suite of teaching artist training programs in arts integration, residency planning, and other areas.

The topic of emerging leadership is near to my professional heart. One of the reasons I stayed in the arts was the network of peers I quickly built from my first job in arts administration. I was working for the Washington State Arts Alliance in Seattle, WA and my boss suggested I get involved with the Emerging Leader Network of Americans for the Arts. I went to a conference, found kindred spirits, and made sure to get to every Americans for the Arts conference until I was honored to be elected to the Emerging Leader Council itself. From there, Americans for the Arts hired me and I moved to DC.

Without that network, I would not have developed the interpersonal connections that solidified my commitment to this field. Were it not for the colleagues and friends—those with whom I had frank and easy conversations, shared language, shared even a style of clothing—I would have easily departed the field for another type of job. We were compatriots, battling scarce funding, personnel challenges, and other issues that weighed on us, professionally. I’m sure this experience is common to any generation or group of any kind. Like likes like. But more than that, we sustain each other in rougher times. These connections do not preclude nor devalue connections made across our differences.

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Emerging Leader – An identification Crisis

Posted by Ruby Lopez Harper, Oct 19, 2009 1 comment

When my manager at the time approached me about applying to be an Emerging Leader Council member, my first thought was “Why?”.  I was a coordinator at the city arts council; what in heaven's name could I possibly bring to the table?  And what is an Emerging Leader?  Well, her answer was simple: “What is your title at the theatre?,” referring to the community theatre where I volunteer.  I responded “President of the Board of Trustees, why?” “That makes you a leader.” I had to really think about that – and not just that, but the fact that I enjoyed organizing folks and helping people make connections. That I was active on the state level in support of community theatre.  That I was an active member of the artistic community and people (for whatever reason) listened to and spoke with ME about stuff – challenges in their theatres, needs in their community, finding people to fill positions… It was like a whole new world opened up, and I was suddenly looking at myself with new eyes. I never considered myself a leader; I think most “leaders” don’t.  They do what they do because they can’t do things any other way.  It’s intrinsic, base. Pre-programmed and hard-wired.  And that is the challenge of perpetuating a concept of the "Emerging Leader". How do you convert people who just are "leaders" into Leaders who identify themselves by that title and recognize who they are and what they bring to the greater community? 

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What, Me Lead?

Posted by Bridget Matros, Oct 19, 2009 3 comments

I was always pegged as a “leader.” They pick them in high school. Or so it seems. And from treatment as such, you get to do wonderful things. Then you float around in the real world for a bit, working two jobs to pay rent while figuring out what you want to do with your life, and you are no longer a leader. You are a shmoe like everyone else.  After that hiatus, someone at a reputable college sees from your records that you were a Leader, so of course, they invite you to attend, for further grooming. And you learn Leadership Skills (can’t think of any offhand), get to do wonderful things (like go to school for free), and in return, in all your wisdom, you Train Leaders before another stint as jobless shmoe.

Yes, I actually taught a course for the other first-generation, low-income well-doer Leader-types on leadership in community service. Seeing upper-class white kids invade the local community with their conceptual ideals and clumsy ignorance was like nails on a chalkboard to me, so I mostly focused on what NOT to do, which I hear is a poor way to Lead. Still, the people in the community were sad that I was leaving town after graduation (or perhaps scared). Come to think of it, I even interned for several years at an organization called “Grassroots Leadership Development.” They trained Leaders. I had a fancy well-paid fellowship in what was to be “my field” – public school reform. I was always wary of what these investors expected from me, from high school onward, hoping to be across the country when I’ve failed to be the Leader they expected.

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20UNDER40 and the Emerging Leader Movement

Posted by Stephanie Hanson, Oct 19, 2009 0 comments

Ten years ago, at a 1999 Americans for the Arts conference titled “Remembering the Past/Envisioning the Future”, five young arts professionals attending the conference were frustrated by the lack of participation by other young leaders, especially considering the conversation centered so much on the future.  These leaders realized something had to be done.  Americans for the Arts agreed, and the Emerging Leaders Network was born.

My name is Stephanie Evans, Local Arts Agency Services Coordinator at Americans for the Arts.  I am an Emerging Arts Leader, working to coordinate the field of Emerging Arts Leaders to offer networking opportunities and professional development.  But what does that mean?  Why do we identify ourselves as Emerging Arts Leaders?  The official definition is “anyone under the age of 35 or who has been in the field for less than 5 years.”  But what are we leading?  Who are we leading?

Many of us are leaders in our own individual roles.  We are Executive Directors, Board Members, Community Leaders, Volunteer Leaders, the list goes on.  But collectively – What are the thousands of Emerging Arts Leaders working towards?  And should we be working towards anything?  Does our voice matter?  It should.  It’s our future.  But at the same time, we come after a generation of hard working veteran arts leaders who have given us jobs, advice, mentorship opportunities, and even if we want to change things, their work needs to be honored and respected.
All of these questions are the reason I am so excited about the 20UNDER40 Project, the anthology of twenty essays by Emerging Leaders, and the discourse that this project has incited thus far.

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Sitting Not Just at the Table, But at Multiple Tables

Posted by Erin Hoppe, Oct 19, 2009 1 comment

This is my very first foray into the blogosphere. Sure, I Facebook and have left an online review or two, but unlike others straddling the Y and Millennial generations, I am not a dedicated, you tubing, tweeting, social networker. I first heard about 20under40 at the AFTA annual conference then followed a bit of the debate on Facebook. I was excited about the project then surprised to hear the caustic debate over the age factor. Why limit the voices in this project to those under 40?

I’m of the opinion that any age can “emerge” in this field; it’s common to change careers later in life. Professionals of all ages have an important voice in the conversation about the future and reality of this generational shift. But, being the youngest in the room is all too familiar, and can breed a bit of insecurity. Like every young professional, I work hard to hold my own and know that I have valuable contributions to make based on my life experiences. Sometimes I am given the opportunity to contribute; other times I have to put myself out there and see if the field will look past my shorter resume.

There is something very different about emerging in this field because of youth rather than following a new career path; each has their own challenge and opportunity. When exploring my own experience in this field I am struck first by two connected concepts, social capital and mentorship.

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The Widespread Frustration about Being Heard in Our Field

Posted by Mr. Eric Booth, Oct 19, 2009 2 comments

I have been working with Edward on this book project for quite some time--as the "old fart" offering support and feedback on creating a book and managing a big project. I entered the project believing that the "mainstream" (whatever that is) field of the arts/arts education has been unwelcoming to the voices and input of young leaders. Indeed, as an active mentor to many young professionals who graduated from programs I taught and intensives I led, I have a visceral sense of the way many have felt ignored, disrespected and sometimes flat-out squelched. At the same time, I am actively in touch with many young leaders who have found their voice, found their leadership, and are making a huge difference already. So, I enter this dialogue believing there are few generalizations that apply truthfully.

My two cents: the voices of young leaders are heard occasionally in remarkable mainstream situations (I can think of a few institutions that have hired young superstars who are change makers in their 30s); the voices of the young are more widely heard as a result of small organizations, project successes, and artistic breakthroughs of their own creation; and overall, as a field, we DO disrespect the leadership and voice of young leaders. There are demographic reasons (the Boomers are not retiring in the traditional leadership ladder pattern of past generations); economic reasons (the arts/arts learning fields are in almost constant stress which constrains both job advancement and the innovative and bold ideas of the young); and for very human reasons that appeared in previous blogs and online conversations around 20 UNDER 40 discussions.

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