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Preservation and Conservation

The overarching theme of the Ohio Arts Council’s August newsletter is preservation and conservation. As I pondered what I would share with you on these topics, the idea of leadership kept coming to the forefront. In his book, Turn Around the Ship, David Marquet reveals his story about turning followers into leaders. 

Marquet is a former nuclear submarine commander, and while that may seem far afield from the world of artistic disciplines we know and love, I was intrigued nonetheless. I'm a sucker for a good story about real world leadership, which made this volume easy to pick up. 

Marquet examines two styles of leadership: leader-follower and leader-leader. The leader-follower model is the traditional top-down, boss-employee relationship that many organizations continue to follow. Marquet, however, saw value in empowering people to become leaders, regardless of their rank or station in the workplace hierarchy. He articulates his vision by saying: 

"Imagine a workplace where everyone engages and contributes their full intellectual capacity. A place where people are healthier and happier because they have more control over their work – a place where everyone is a leader."

This idea should strike a nerve for many of us. So often in the arts, an individual’s title or status does not denote leadership; rather, it is the presence of passion and action aligned to a sense of mission. 

At the OAC, we live Marquet's “imagine” statement. We are a team working in an environment where everyone can reach their potential, and our collective potential is producing big results. Over the last 13 months, we've opened our doors, spent time with our constituents, surveyed the state, created a State Arts Plan, and are in the midst of celebrating a historic level of increased funding for arts and culture. (Special thanks, again, to Governor Kasich and members of the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate, as well as arts advocates statewide and Ohio Citizens for the Arts!) 

Moreover, just 45 days into the new fiscal year, the OAC staff has visited more than 40 cities and towns across Ohio to meet with arts leaders, hear your ideas, and witness your hard work. That’s nearly one community each day—counting weekends! These visits allow us to learn more about the organizations and artists we fund and share resources with them. It is also an opportunity to create partnerships and connect networks of constituents across the state. 

As part of our OAC leadership structure, every member of the staff has been empowered with the 80-10-10 plan: spend 80% of your time focused on your role and responsibilities, 10% of your time in the field with constituents, and 10% of your time engaged in your own professional learning. We are meeting our 80-10-10 goals and it shows! 

Nearly every single day I hear from constituents who are delighted to have spent time with OAC leaders at their venues or offices. By changing our perspective, standing in your space, and understanding the opportunities and challenges you face, we become stronger advocates for your needs. 

As I read Marquet's book, I felt proud realizing that we were indeed practicing leader-leader here at the OAC. I also know for us to be truly engaged we must also practice leader-leader with our constituents.

As arts leaders, regardless of title or role, we must conserve our most valuable assets. We must conserve the leadership that lives within every artist, arts administrator, actor, musician, and teacher in order to prevent the loss of new ideas and promote exceptional planning, design, and vision.

With students preparing to go back to school, summer slowly winding down, and planning for 2016 well underway, my hope for you is this: Engage the leaders around you. Be present. Listen to ideas. Provide the space necessary for exploration and experimentation. Encourage conversation. We are surrounded by leaders ready to lead – if we can preserve their spirit and enable the leadership skills inherent in them. 

Until next time, 

Donna Collins' signature

Donna S. Collins
Executive Director

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