Leadership isn't generally part of the typical theater course syllabi. Most of us don't go into this profession because we are interested in becoming CEOs of large corporations or making lots of money. Some of us get bit by the theater "bug", want to participate in bringing theater "magic" to life, or find this profession to be an outlet for our creativity. As careers progress, individuals may find themselves in the position of managing departments or organizations without having had much management training. Some organizations are a joy to work in while others seem to chew people up and spit them out. Some people enjoy long and profitable careers in Theater while others “burnout” and move on. What makes the difference? I’d like to suggest that Leadership plays a significant role.
Good leaders are able to bring people together and empower them to effectively achieve more as a whole than they could individually. They usually make people feel good about the work they do and energize everyone around a common goal. Leadership is not restricted to particular roles such as the artistic director or production manager. Rather, it is a personal quality which you can develop and exercise at home, in your community, and at any level of your profession.
Bill George, professor of management practice at the Harvard Business School and former CEO of Medtronic asserts that the hardest (and most important) person you will ever lead is yourself. I think this is particularly true in our profession where many of us are likely to work freelance for at least a part of our careers. Even in well established organizations, production teams and performing artists are likely to change from show to show or season to season. The only person you are assured of working with consistently is yourself! In his 2007 book, True North, George discusses five dimensions of an authentic leader:
- Pursuing purpose with passion
- Practicing solid values
- Leading with the heart
- Establishing enduring relationships
- Demonstrating self-discipline
In future newsletter issues I will be sharing thoughts and resources about each of these areas in relation to work as a theater professional. I hope you will join me. If you have questions, comments, or resources to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Alicia Wold is the General Manager of CostumeRentals, a combined project of the Guthrie Theater and Children’s Theatre Company. With a BA in Theater and MA in Organizational Leadership from St, Catherine University and a certificate in Dispute Resolution from Hamline School of Law she has enjoyed over twenty years in the Twin Cities theater community.]
USITT National Conference 2012
Long Beach, CA
Be prepared for fun and excitement at the 2012 Annual Conference & Stage Expo.