By Rachel Moore
Rachel Moore has the kind of deep background in the arts that compels people to listen when she speaks. After identifying as a dancer all her life and dancing professionally with American Ballet Theatre for six years, she found a calling in advocating for artists’ rights. Eventually she returned to ABT as executive director/CEO, a position she held for 11 years. In 2015, she became president and CEO for The Music Center in Los Angeles, the largest performing arts center on the West Coast. —DBW
While there are those who suggest that executive leadership requires you to have “all the answers,” I don’t agree. Instead, I believe that true leadership articulates where one wants to go; why the desired destination is important; and what the values are that those on the journey should embrace. The nuts and bolts of how one gets there is a collective process that requires the talents and skills of a diverse team of people.
Rather than them trying to do it all, I offer this advice for leaders in our field:
1. Build a team that does not look or think like you, and be sure it represents a diverse set of skills.
As Doris Kearns Goodwin famously noted in her biography of Abraham Lincoln, “Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.“ The point is not to get to your decision; but, rather, to determine the right decision. Research shows, time and again, that diverse teams are smarter, more productive and more innovative. (See “Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter,” by David Rock and Heidi Grant, for instance, in Harvard Business Review.)As you build your team, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and hire people who are different from you and who have differing skills sets. Reach outside your comfort zone and curate your team to be strong and capable as one unit.
2. Build a personal board of directors.
In my book, The Artist’s Compass, I suggest that one establish a group of personal advisors who will provide support and advice. I call this a “personal board of directors.” These advisors should be people who support you as an individual (rather than just your organization). They should have the skills or knowledge you lack, challenge you in different ways, tell you the truth no matter what, and understand your professional goals while bringing different points of view to the table. Having people with whom you can vent, strategize, brainstorm, etc., without having to worry about the politics of your workplace, is revelatory and a true stress reliever.
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