ISSUE 6 | VOLUME 1 | 2007

August 15, 2007

In this Issue:

A Day in The Life

The Burning Question

Career Talk

Add to My Vocab

The Corner Bookshelf

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Dear Readers,

The looming leadership crisis in the arts and culture industry continues to receive sporadic attention. Yet, we wonder what tactical measures, if any, are being implemented to address the impact of this growing concern. The New York Times recently published two articles discussing the future of the Metropolitan Museum of Art after director Philippe de Montebello retires; and another article featured leadership institutes that offer intensive training to help prepare the next generation of museum directors. However, neither article addressed the most serious issue in our organizations – the lack of career paths.

The industry may acknowledge the leadership crisis in the arts and culture sector, but where is the dialogue about succession planning and how the field will support itself?

Leadership courses and degree programs are only part of the solution; they prepare professionals for work in the field but what mechanisms are in place to reward and retain them? Since we recruit and staff exclusively for the arts and culture industry, we deal firsthand with the impact of low salaries and the lack of clear career paths and training opportunities for employees. We know that these deterrents prohibit diversity and long-term commitment to the field. Many people must leave their organizations in order to advance professionally and be better compensated.

Boards and senior leadership must provide ongoing organizational support and invest in current and future employees to realize the next generation of arts leaders. If not, who will be able to afford to be one?

Geri Thomas, President

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Curator of Asian Art The Newark Museum
Send your resume and cover letter to Geri Thomas at


The Illinois Arts Alliance’s 2001 report Succession: Arts Leadership for the 21st Century surveyed 76 executive directors and 81 emerging leaders in the arts and asked them about job satisfaction, leadership succession and compensation. The study found that:

• 7 in 10 executive directors planned to leave their jobs within five years and half planned to retire from their current position.

• Emerging leaders wanted more career development opportunities and executive directors wanted better-trained staff.

• 76% of executive directors were in their leadership positions for the first time.

• 58% of the executive directors said their organization did not have a succession plan in place.


Do . . . Advocate for an HR function within your organization that includes employee relations and staff development.

Don’t . . . Think that succession planning does not affect you and your career. How organizations plan for succession impacts the types of jobs available and skill sets needed for leadership positions.
Do . . . Use existing templates and outlines to expedite and guide you through the succession planning process. Many resources are available online and through art and non-profit service organizations such as the Free Management Library, Center for Nonprofit Advancement and Texas Association of Museums
Don't . . . Limit your succession plan only to replacing an Executive Director. Make sure to have similar plans in place for all executive level positions at the organization.


1. Professionals with little or no arts-related experience are being hired for senior leadership positions from the corporate sector.

2. Recent graduates with Masters Degrees are having difficulty finding employment in their chosen field.

3. Compensation may be low as our study reveals that nearly 60% of respondents earn $40k or lower and 81% earn an annual salary of less than $50k.

4. Most arts and culture organizations have no plans for leadership succession and staff development.

5. You may not be as proactive about your career as you should be.

What do you think? We welcome your comments.


A snapshot of how different arts and culture professionals are shaping their careers.

In 1979, Darla founded a non-profit organization dedicated to showcasing visual and performing art by internationally known artists. With incredible drive, Darla was a hands-on, visionary leader who considered the organization “her baby”. As the organization’s twentieth anniversary drew near, the Board realized they had not planned for the future leadership of the organization.

Fortunately, a key board member was experienced with the succession planning process. Having run a large family business that his adult children now led, he convinced the board to hire a non-profit consultant to develop a comprehensive succession plan. An offsite meeting with the board and consultant later uncovered several issues that needed attention in the succession planning process:

The Board’s financial strategy that kept salary and administrative costs low in favor of spending more resources on programs and events, had failed to provide training for existing staff in order to develop new leaders within the organization.

The Board acknowledged the need to revisit the organization’s mission, strategic plan and future qualifications of new artistic, managing and senior directors.

The consultant pointed out that an integral part of developing the organization’s succession plan was to involve Darla and incorporate her legacy. It was also important to maintain the constituency of supporters she had developed from audience members to high-level donors.

The Board adopted a plan articulating their next steps and to decide the following: how search committee members would be selected; the necessary qualifications and skills of potential candidates; the strategic plan and goals for the organization; and how new leadership would be continually identified, supported and transitioned into future roles within the organization.

Increase your understanding of common terms used in career development.

What is a succession plan?

A succession plan is essential to the success and growth of every organization. It is a formal strategy describing how an organization will identify, recruit and develop talented employees for future management and leadership positions. A succession plan also addresses the need to plan for executive leadership transition whether an executive director retires or in case of an emergency. Ideally, Human Resources, the Board of Trustees and executive leadership are responsible for designing and managing the succession planning process.

Deciphering the true motives behind interview questions.

How long are you planning on staying with our organization?

It’s common for people to leave jobs to pursue new and better opportunities. Our study, The State of the Arts: an Art Career Inventory™ indicates that almost half of respondents are planning to stay in their job for less than one year. With this question, employers want to know if you will become part of this statistic or if they can count on you to make a long-term commitment to their organization. While neither employers nor candidates can see into the future, your answer reveals the intention and clarity of your career goals.

Your answer should provide the interviewer assurances that if hired, you anticipate contributing to the organization as long as the relationship is mutually beneficial. However, depending on the duration of your previous positions on your resume, your experience may confirm or deny your intent to stay and grow with the organization for years to come. Consider the following answer for someone with a series of short-term employments:

“My resume illustrates employment relationships that were mutually beneficial for different lengths of time – some shorter, some longer. I’d like to emphasize that the goals I accomplished contributed to the success of these organizations and I hope to have that opportunity here for as long as possible.”

Your career questions and issues.

I’m interested in relocating to NYC and would like to work in the nonprofit arts field. For the past several months I have not been able to find employment. I have submitted countless resumes, but fail to get the desired response. Many of the responses cite my not being a NYC resident. I cannot afford to move without securing employment. What should I do?

– Development Associate, Louisiana

Unless you are applying for senior-level positions, have very specific expertise or will be expected to travel extensively, it is unlikely that an organization will hire you if you do not reside in the nearby area. Current residents are more convenient to access during the hiring process than a candidate who must make plans to relocate.

It’s also important to know the cost of living in the area and the dynamics of the local arts and culture community. Especially in Development, employers look for candidates who have exceptional knowledge of their geographical area and who may already have contacts or clients in the community that they can bring with them to the organization.

That being said, if you are going to be in the area where you are seeking employment, contact organizations in advance and ask to meet with a human resource representative or department head for an informational interview to discuss possible job openings.


Social Intelligence: the New Science of Human Relationships by Daniel Goleman

Well known for his groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence or “E.Q.”, Daniel Goleman adds to our understanding of multiple intelligences by bringing another dimension to our attention: social intelligence. Whereas emotional intelligence focuses on understanding and managing our own emotions for intellectual growth, social intelligence underpins our ability to assess and manage our interactions with others and engage in adaptive social situations.

Goleman argues that we live in an “emotional economy” where every transaction has an emotional subtext that either affects us positively – as a gain; or negatively – as a deficit. These “costs” effect how we design and manage our working relationships.

Goleman provides a model for social intelligence comprised of two categories: social awareness and social facility. The following list describes elements from these categories:

Social awareness – what we sense about ourselves

  • Primal empathy – feeling with others and sensing emotional signals
  • Attunement – listening with full receptivity to another person
  • Empathic accuracy – understanding someone’s feelings, thoughts and intentions
  • Social cognition – knowing how the social world functions

Social facility – our ability to use social awareness

  • Synchrony – interacting at the nonverbal level
  • Self-presentation – presenting ourselves effectively
  • Influence – shaping the outcome of social interactions
  • Concern – caring about others’ needs and acting accordingly.

By strengthening our social intelligence, we can improve our ability to identify and adapt to social interactions, enhancing the quality of both the process and products of our work.


We want to hear from you. Send us your questions, ideas or feedback to Confidentiality is always assured.

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