Must Reads

National Arts Strategies

Selected readings for arts and culture leaders from National Arts Strategies and the Getty Leadership Institute


Managing change-Themed Readings

Designing for Growth

Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), “The Why and How of Design Thinking,” pp. 3-37.

Jeanne Liedtka has been a hugely successful faculty member of the Getty Leadership Institute’s flagship program for senior museum executives, Museum Leadership Institute. Owing in part to the energy and focus she brings to her highly conversational classroom style (her focus is on learning not teaching), her success with the leaders of cultural organizations is also based on her recognition of the deep differences between business and nonprofit thinking. The underlying assumptions of business thinking are rationality, objectivity and reality as fixed and quantifiable. Business thinking favors analysis aimed at arriving at one “best” answer. Its process is planning and its decision drivers are logic and numeric models. Its values are the pursuit of profit, control and stability as well as discomfort with uncertainty. Its levels of focus are “either/or.”

Liedtka brings the concept and tools of design to shape strategic thinking in the nonprofit sector. Thinking about strategy as design is a way to move from talk (how many nonprofits are driven by endless conversations with no conversation ever quite final) to experimentation and action. Design is tailored to dealing with uncertainty; design understands that products, services and cultural experiences attract real human beings, not target markets segmented into demographic categories.

The four questions of design correspond to the key questions of strategy: What is? (Current reality is analyzed honestly and thoughtfully.) What if and what wows? (The inspiring possibilities are conceived.) What works? (How can we make an exciting future our next current reality?) In service of these four key questions, Liedtka offers a variety of design tools that include visualization, journey mapping, value chain analysis, mind mapping, assumption testing, rapid prototyping and customer co-creation. The tools enable what Liedtka calls the “small bets” and “experiments” that trigger wise choices about sustainable futures – the key challenge to nonprofits.

Available online »


Connective Leadership: Managing in a Changing World

Jean Lipman-Blumen, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), Originally published as The Connective Edge: Leading in an Interdependent World (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996), “New World, New Leadership,” pp. 3-27, “The Connective Organization, Matching Leadership and Organizational Styles,” pp. 257-285.

The environment shared by for-profits and nonprofits has remarkable similarities: a global economy afflicted with major uncertainties; collaboration among competitors such as Apple and IBM; and much troubled leadership models, e.g., command and control, manipulative and Machiavellian and “nice guy – team leaders,” as Lipman-Blumen suggests. She argues that two antithetical forces, interdependence and diversity, are generating tensions that will fundamentally change the conditions under which leaders must lead and that to succeed in this dramatically altered environment where inclusion is critical and connection is inevitable, we need a new kind of leadership. Connective Leadership describes that new leadership as “one that is more politically savvy and instrumental, yet more ethical, authentic, accountable, and, particularly, more ennobling.”

Three research streams inform this work. Lipman-Blumen has done qualitative research—mostly interviews with leaders from the for-profit and the nonprofit sectors. The second research stream involves historical, biographical and autobiographical sources. The third is quantitative, based on two instruments: the Achieving Styles Inventory and the Organizational Achieving Styles Inventory. The author uses more than five thousand cases collected and analyzed since 1984. Lipman-Blumen’s perspectives also draw on a wide range of her consulting experience in government, business and the social sector. Part One examines the origins and evolution of the human need for leadership. Part Two presents the Connective Leadership Model in detail. Part Three explores the empirical organizational results and the philosophical implications of the Model.

Available online »


Being the Boss: the 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader

Linda Hill and Kent Lineback, (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011), “Your Three Imperatives as a Manager,” pp. 11-29.

In many ancient myths, the hero’s task is to learn the name of the Beast. By addressing the Beast by name, the hero can control the Beast. Hill and Lineback name the many Beasts that torment leaders and managers, the paradoxes that both daunt and define the work of bosses. Leaders and managers are responsible for what others do. To focus on the work they must focus on the people doing the work. They must both develop people and evaluate them. They must make the group a cohesive team without losing sight of the individuals on the team. To lead their group they must manage the larger context beyond the group. They must focus on today; they must focus on tomorrow. They must execute and innovate. They must sometimes do harm in order to do a greater good.

The tension within each paradox is never fully and truly resolved, nor should it be. The “right” action will always be a matter of judgment, explaining why management is so stressful. The paradoxes also explain why the world needs managing, why becoming a successful manager is a lengthy, difficult, personal journey requiring self-knowledge. And all this happens in a dynamic workplace with a changing workforce.

Naming and explaining the paradoxes makes it possible to deal with them in a balanced and thoughtful way, i.e., through Hill and Lineback’s three imperatives: manage yourself, manage your network and manage your team. The balance of the work expands in extremely practical ways on these imperatives.

The book is a distillation of Linda Hill’s almost 30 years at Harvard Business School (HBS) where she has studied what effective managers do and how they do it. She chairs the HBS Leadership Initiative.

Available online »


Leading with Passion: Change Management in the 21st Century Museum

Serene Suchy, (Walnut Creek: Altamira Press, 2004), "Trust, the Director-Trustee Interface," pp. 125-149.

Dr. Suchy exclusively focuses on art museums. Nevertheless, based on her extensive interviews with 42 directors of international art museums, she describes a four-part leadership model that could apply equally to all cultural organizations. First, represent the organization internally and externally based on your passion. Second, create a context for others to do their best coaching and team building. Third, act as an ethical entrepreneur to ensure the organization’s financial and reputational future. Finally, nurture relationships of trust with key stakeholders.

All four dimensions are important and Suchy’s treatment is practical. Of particular interest is her take on the director-trustee interface, i.e., what others have called “the” strategic relationship. Suchy details the predictable role confusions in three areas: governance, policy development, and succession planning. These areas are explored from the director’s point of view though it is balanced with views from other professionals responsible for trustee appointments or for activities in service of strengthening boards. Her treatment distinguishes the unique challenges in importantly different museum cultures, those of Australia, Canada, England and the United States.

After all, the Director and Board Chairperson are not on opposite sides of the tennis court net, they are a doubles team disagreeing often enough but sharing the disagreement in a whisper before the next serve. And trustees are on museum boards because they want to be useful. They have been sought for the role in order to make better use of their skills, experience and resources in service of an organization they believe makes a difference in the world.

Available online »


Improving Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations

Ronald E. Riggio and Sarah Smith Orr, editors. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004), “Transforming Nonprofit Boards,” pp. 119-130.

Riggio and Orr capture the substance of the Kravis-de Roulet Leadership Conference focused on the nonprofit. Several themes are addressed including change in and transformation of nonprofits, the special nature of nonprofit leadership and the ways in which ideas and actions are interconnected. The scope of the conference was broad, including many challenges faced by nonprofit leaders, e.g., board management, staff motivation, leadership development and program evaluation. The book is intended to be a guidebook for leading nonprofit organizations rather than a handbook of nonprofit leadership or management. This book’s essays are designed to stimulate a nonprofit leader’s thinking and to point out new directions and new ideas for leading that are all well-grounded in theory, research and practice. The essays prompt questions rather than prescribing answers.

Jay Congar’s essay on governance as leadership, “Transforming Nonprofit Boards—Lessons from the World of Corporate Governance,” will be of particular interest to the executive directors of cultural organizations. Congar builds on Peter Drucker’s advice in Managing the Nonprofit Organization: “Over the door to the nonprofit’s boardroom there should be an inscription in big letters that says: Membership on this board is not power, it is responsibility. Board membership means responsibility not just to the organization but to the board itself, to the staff, and to the institution’s mission.” There are four corporate governance areas that Congar believes offer lessons to nonprofit boards: board size, boardroom evaluations, assessments of directors’ capabilities and efficient formats for board meetings. His advice about leveraging the resources around the board table includes descriptions of key knowledge areas that should be present in any well rounded board. He also emphasizes the need not to waste busy people’s time with poorly designed meetings.

Available online »