All posts tagged leadership

A Few Thoughts About ‘Lean In’

Seven weeks after I had my son Ewan in late January, Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” was published. I originally thought I’d be able to catch up on a lot of reading during maternity leave—now I know better. Between sleepless nights and 6+ hours of nursing each day, baths and pediatrician appointments and finding childcare for when I return to work, there is not as much free time as I had hoped.

And yet … the discussion  and emotions around”Lean In” were so intense I felt I had to read it. I downloaded the audiobook and finished it in two days while breastfeeding.

Because I listened to the audiobook, it’s hard to write a proper review with detailed quotes and excerpts. Which doesn’t matter, because I have a newborn and can only type with one hand these days, and because my main takeaway is Read. The. Book. The content of “Lean In” is far superior to the commentary, and more entertaining. Just do it. It’s only 6 and a half hours long as an mp3 and is very well suited to the medium.

Here’s my one-hand-typing review of the book: CONTINUE READING ]

Words With Care: Leadership & Communication Challenges

The other day I was scrolling through Harvard Business Review podcasts when an interview with Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca-Cola came on. He was talking about doubling the size of his company, but what amazed me was his double-speak: soda became a “full calorie beverage.” The nation’s obesity problem became an opportunity for philanthropists to promote “energy balance.” The content of the interview was normally something I’d skip, but I found myself transfixed by Kent’s style in answering the tough questions he was being asked about water supply, the environment, obesity and his first years as CEO. It reminded me of the story of how Steve Jobs lured John Sculley from Pepsi, saying “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?” What can those of us who want to change the world for the better learn from a CEO of Coca-Cola? CONTINUE READING ]

On Assumptions, Recognition and Inspiration

Six years ago, I was looking for a job on the East Coast, something that would allow me to continue directing plays and stay connected to community-based art. When the “Press and Marketing  Coordinator” position at Wesleyan came up in the job listings, I passed it by even though it was in my neighborhood, because I didn’t see myself fitting into the culture of a presenting organization at a university. I had a lot of assumptions … and one of them was that a university presenter would not be connected to the off-campus community, would not feature the kind of performing and visual artists who interest me, and if they did, they would only be accessible to undergraduates and professors.

A coworker of mine who was a Wesleyan alumnus persuaded me to take a second look at the job, and within a month I was working there, because of one person: Pamela Tatge. Pam Tatge is the director of Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts and the embodiment of the term “artistic administrator.” During my time at Wesleyan, she helped create the Green Street Arts Center, orchestrated a citywide dance festival which danced its way up the hill and onto campus, broke the mold of the first-year-students’ common reading program and instead co-created a residency based on the performance “text” of Bill T. Jones.

Consistently, Pam Tatge challenges convention and asks where and how art can be a more essential part of everyday life and learning. I rarely saw her press a vision onto a project that excluded the ideas of others—rather, she created structures wherein artists could work with students, cultural groups, city leaders, neighborhood families, professors and the administrative team at the CFA to launch creative endeavors that included many people, in many ways.

Pam transformed my idea of what an artistic administrator can achieve, and how universities and communities can work together—which is why I was so excited to learn that this year she was honored with the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence from the National Association of Performing Arts Presenters. It is always thrilling to see someone get the recognition they deserve.

And speaking of recognition, the whole Center for the Arts team—Barbara, Adam, Camille, John, Kristen, Mark—are pretty incredible. Congratulations to all!

Come to the Dark Side, aka How to Think Like an Administrator

A while back I read a Theatre Communications Group chart comparing and contrasting the differences between artists and administrators. And it was … cute. There were some good points, but it was too simple and general to be of much use. 

Truth is, artists and administrators working together can do great things But we often approach those great things from different perspectives. And we are not the only group out there who tries to achieve great things despite vast differences (politics, anyone?). In this case, I am thinking of another group of creative, passionate individuals whose work does not always have an immediate, practical application–academics.

Clare Potter, Professor of History and American Studies at Wesleyan University, has a blog called Tenured Radical. She has written a wonderful, nuanced post about collaboration. If you substitute the words “academic” and “professor” for artist, it is a rockin’ treatise from the perspective of a radical, demanding, respectful and compassionate artist (oops, I mean academic).

Here are the adapted highlights:

Be firm and clear when expressing objections, but don’t be abusive or accuse the administrator of bad faith out of hand.

Give people the benefit of the doubt: sometimes they lack knowledge for a reason.

Administrators are not failed artists.

You can’t always get what you want.

Administrators, like God, help those who help themselves.

The highlights don’t do her justice, and the comments are worth a read too. As Barry Hessenius would say, Don’t Quit!


Top Ten Reasons Managers Become Great ]

I can see where the commenter who asked “why do we expect managers to be different than other people,” but I think it would be interesting to keep score for a week and see which of these Reasons rise to the top.

Courtesy of the Berkun Blog.

Compare and Contrast: Articles on Leadership

Two posts about leadership caught my eye this week:

  • Andrew Taylor’s “Three Questions for the CEO Candidate” sparks a dialogue about the back-and-forth between executive director candidates and search committees. 
  • Dominique Browning writes about John Maeda, RISD’s “new type of president,” for the Wall Street Journal. (note: link is only good for 7 days)

Back Before You Know/Knew It

I think I broke one of the cardinal rules of blogging by skipping town and blogging on another site without warning. And now, I have just returned from four days in Philadelphia, where I attended the 2008 Annual Convention of Americans for the Arts.

What did I learn? First and foremost, to REGISTER EARLY. Staying at an overflow hotel makes it hard to blog, power-nap, or pace ones’ self throughout the days.

What can I use? Within hours of my Career 360 session with Dewey Schott of Next-Step Consulting, he forwarded me an article about high-functioning teams that I hope to utilize at our next staff retreat. The advance workshop on Better Program Evaluation will be useful in consensus-building with board members and teaching artists about how (enrollment numbers? student testimonials? mission relevance?) to define programming success.

Who did I meet? As Ruby Classen noted on her earlier blog, I traveled far from home to meet some people in my own backyard: Maren Brown of the UMass Arts Extension Service, Brian Hornby from New Haven’s Office of Cultural Affairs. A slightly awkward and rushed meeting between the Emerging Leaders Council and the State Arts Action Network resulted in one of my most enjoyable conversations of the Convention, when Anne Katz and I discovered that we both got early career breaks at the O’Neill Theater Center (many years apart, and many shared memories nonetheless). And, near the end of my stay, a chance meeting with Susan Pontious of the San Francisco Arts Commission revealed that the Hestia Mural, which I enjoy daily in my hometown of Northampton, was her very first public art project, in 1980.

Where will I go? Perhaps the better question is, where won’t I go? Members of the Seattle emerging leaders network were so compelling with their visions of next year’s UNconvention, I might head west in the fall for Bumbershoot or another long weekend. Tucson would be an exciting addition to my list of travels. And the Public Art Year in Review was a reminder that I should drive down to New York, see the waterfalls, and check out fellow emerging leader Marisa Catalina Casey’s new Starting Artists space in Brooklyn.

But for now, it is good to be HOME! Big thanks to everyone who made this convention inspiring, challenging, irreverent, and unforgettable.


p.s. I am also back to my “home” blog,