Arts leadership needs to be transformed to keep up with the requirements of a changing society, a new report claims.
It sets out a number of “significant challenges” facing arts leadership in England, such as a need to be more diverse, more responsive to financial instability, more receptive to technology and innovation, and less hierarchical.
The report, commissioned by Arts Council England, highlights the lack of diversity in the creative sector, and concedes that the current workforce and its attitudes are “not considered to be representative of the population”.
Being able to attract diverse talent is identified as a specific challenge in the report, in order for the “ever more diverse nation” to be truly represented in the arts. However, it warns that “depressed salaries, long hours and insecurity of employment” combined with shrinking arts education means leaders must work harder to “attract, reward and retain diverse talent”.
The report, called Changing Cultures: Transforming Leadership in the Arts, Museums and Libraries, is written by King’s College London, and is based on the outcome of research, survey responses, interviews and focus groups.
It claims cultural leaders are becoming better at responding to external challenges, such as instability over public funding, but warns these could be exacerbated following Brexit, posing yet further challenges to leaders.
There is also a high risk of “burnout” among arts leaders, the report claims, arguing that “low pay levels, lack of work–life balance and limited opportunities for career progression” means the sector is particularly vulnerable.
“In order to weather the pressures that are expected to lie ahead, leaders will need to take care of their own development and mental well-being, as well as that of those with whom they work,” the report says.
Elsewhere, it questions the usefulness of hierarchical models of leadership for contemporary arts organisations, and promotes “more dispersed” structures, with leaders who are “more welcome to distinctive work styles and preferences”.
“This may mean a less hierarchical approach to people management and fewer silos in organisations’ structures,” the report says.
“In this climate of change and all the associated pressures on current and emerging leaders, it is important not only to examine what is expected of leaders but to consider the skills, behaviours and attributes required and how these can be developed most effectively,” it adds.