Gradually Finding The Leader Within

Long time readers know I am a fan of Peter Drucker’s short piece, Managing Oneself.  It has been awhile since I have sung its praises so it is timely that a TEDx Talk by Lars Sudmann about self-leadership came across my social media feeds recently.

Actually, it was a written summary of the talk on the TED website that initially came to my attention.

One of the first things I appreciated about Sudmann’s talk was that he acknowledged that good leadership is a lot easier in theory than in practice. As a subordinate, we always have ideas running through our heads about how we would do a better job than our bosses if we were in charge. Then when we are actually put in charge, we get bogged down with all the details and demands for our time.

Sudmann talks about walking in to his first staff meeting, resolved to be an inspiring, dynamic and awesome leader only to have the conversation bogged down by a discussion of email signature files.

Where I really agree with Sudmann is his suggestion that self-reflection and introspection is one of the most important traits of a good leader. It isn’t enough to simply make a list of your strengths and weaknesses and acknowledge them, you have to be in the practice of evaluating your daily decisions and activities.

Drucker covers this in his piece too. He urges people to become aware of their strengths and what they need to become better and encourages people to share how they work best with co-workers as a way of enlisting their in providing materials and opportunities in a manner that aids your improvement.

Sudmann cites Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher recognized as one of the better Roman Emperors, who focused much of his time practicing self-leadership versus trying to lead others.

Sudmann suggests that a little self-examination can result in a realization that we share many of the traits we dislike about those we consider bad leaders. You can do the same thing with the traits you admire in others:

Every day, take 5- 10 minutes to think about the challenges you’ve recently handled and the ones you’ll soon face. While Marcus Aurelius was fond of reflecting in the evening, Sudmann likes doing this over morning coffee. Questions to pose include: “How did my leadership go yesterday? How would the leader I’d like to be have faced the challenges I faced? What about my challenges today? What could I do differently?” Write down your thoughts so you can refer back to them and learn from them.

Prioritizing issues is also an important part of leadership. If you hadn’t guessed it already, a discussion about email signatures shouldn’t occupy important staff meetings.

You should engage with 9s and 10s right away, but you’ll find that many things which shatter your calm will be of lesser importance. With anything that’s a 6 or lower, either excuse yourself physically (“I need to take a quick break; be right back”) or figuratively (“Let me take a minute to go over what you’ve said”). Then, give yourself a moment to think: “How would the leader I aspire to be handle this situation?” The answer will come to you.

There are pretty much direct parallels between strategic plans and developing leadership skills. Just as you shouldn’t put a strategic plan on a shelf after investing time in examining the state of your organization and creating a plan to guide the organization into the future, you don’t want to scrutinize your strengths and weaknesses and do nothing to address them until the next crisis or next scheduled board/supervisor evaluation.

I also see parallels between the approach Sudmann  espouses and Arts Midwest’s Creating Connection initiative.  (You knew I was going to tie something back to that sooner or later!)  Just as building public will for arts and culture is a long term plan focused on continuous improvement and consistent messaging, so too is the process of becoming a better leader.

 

Some Guidance On Researching Open Meeting & Records Laws In Your State

In response to my post last week about the surge of people seeking my advice regarding the open meeting and open records laws of their states based on a 2016 ArtsHacker post I had written, ArtsHacker editor-in-chief suggested I write another post listing some of the resources I had found.

I responded that given every state had its own laws, there really wasn’t any centralized source(s) of information I could point to that a person could reference.

Much to my chagrin, there is still apparently a lot one can say on the matter as I managed to hammer out more than 1000 words of advice regarding how to research open meeting and records laws in your state.

One of the interesting things I have come to realize is that in some states, it appears that technically the members of the board of directors may not have the right to review the records of the organization they govern. There may be more to write on this topic in the future…

 

More About Open Meeting Laws & Non-Profits

Let Me Tell You What You Can Do With That Phone

Hat tip to Howard Sherman for calling attention to a New York Times article about cell phone use at live performances that the paper has set up as an study guide/student discussion resource.

The article opens with a video of Joshua Henry taking a phone from an audience member and tossing it under the seating riser (without missing a note in his song), noting that Henry had already been indicating his disapproval with being recorded for three songs.

It also mentions the recent incident in Cincinnati when violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter stopped in the middle of a Beethoven concerto to call out a woman recording her performance.

The New York Times article poses a number of questions for students to consider and discuss.  While I feel the questions are a little leading toward certain answers, they, or questions like them, could prove useful as a starting point for arts & cultural organizations as part of a conversation with younger audiences (or potential audiences) about their expectations.

I will say, of the student responses made in the article comments section, there were more inclined against the use of phones than I had expected. Many of the commenters were from the same school so perhaps they were generated by like-minded friends.

There is also an opportunity to have those participating in a discussion you host do a little more research on whatever scenario is being discussed.

For example, when I first learned about Annie-Sophie Mutter stopping the performance, my impression was that the person in the audience had only just started recording a short snippet. In later interviews, Mutter said the woman recorded the whole first movement and then pulled out another phone and an external power source and started recording the second movement. This adds a little more context for a discussion.

Making audiences of all ages feel welcome at performances and other cultural events will inevitably require addressing the issue of recording. I suspect that other than luck and perceptive ability, the more constructive policies will result from having conversations with audiences rather than by straight fiat or debating about it in the comments section of websites.

Why The Sudden Interest In Non-Profit Record Access?

Three years ago I wrote an article for ArtsHacker.com about being aware of the open meeting requirements your state imposes on non-profits.

I basically pointed out that while pretty much every state requires a non-profit organization receiving state funds to comply with open meeting laws, every state is different when it comes to defining at what degree of state support an organization needs to begin complying.

In some states, the existence of your non-profit pretty much needs to be established by an act of the legislature, while in other states being provided with a meeting space in a state owned building is all that is required to make your organization subject to the state open meetings and records laws.

I am not sure what has happened in the last year or so, but pretty much once a month now someone leaves a comment asking if an organization in their state is subject to open meetings or open records laws.  I pretty much end up saying, “You should really consult a lawyer on this subject, but here is what I found online about the laws in your state.”

I have yet to find a state that doesn’t have the rules governing non-profits posted online somewhere, pretty clearly labeled. So if you are curious about your state, I encourage you to check online first because that is all I am going to do. (Check both the sections on open meetings and retention and access to records.)

Some states have some pretty good guides created to answer questions about open meetings and non-profits. It is good to have your secretary of state telling you clearly what the state laws do and don’t require.

I call attention to all this because I am wondering why there is a surge in questions on the post.  There are far more comments on that post than anything else I have written on the site. Have search engines started giving it better placement in results?  Are people seeking greater transparency from the organizations with which they are involved and don’t know where to find answers? (Or perhaps, the closure of so many local newspapers means a lack of people to help them find answers)

If anyone has theories, please share.

I should note, I am not sure any of the queries have come from people involved with arts and culture organizations.  Only about half provide any details that identify what sort of organization they are working with and none of them have been arts related.

Is Your Non-Profit Subject To Open Meeting Laws?

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