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Arts & Culture Seen Thought Leader

Leadership Trainings Builds Stronger Arts Communities

Lara Smith

By Lara Smith, Managing Director of Dads Garage
Peek into the business world and you’ll see executive of all types enrolling in leadership training courses. Listen to the radio and you’ll inevitably hear calls to enroll in some weekend course on leadership: Leadership for Women, Leading your Sales Team, Leading other Leaders, etc. You can take a one day seminar, a weeklong retreat, or even an online certificate program to be a better leader. But are they worth it for leaders in the arts?
ABSOLUTELY! I’ve taken many leadership training classes, and there are so many great experiences to be gleaned from them, such as:

  • Clarifying your vision.
  • Being surrounded by other leaders (and learning from them!).
  • Introspection about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Understanding the broader community in which you operate. 

These are vital skills for self-growth as a leader, and are things that can be hard to do on your own. Leadership trainers can talk you through these issues, challenge you to think deeper, and spur you into action for when you return to work. The arts are just like any other business in that we require strategic planning, excellent team management, and other leadership skills if you want to advance your organization.

Here are some of my favorite leadership training courses I’ve taken, and why they are useful. Perhaps your arts organization might benefit from participating in them:

LEAD (or Leadership) Atlanta: This competitive program usually draws on leaders from the business world who are trying to make an impact on Atlanta, and while it isn’t necessarily geared towards the arts, there is lots that arts leaders can take from this program. First and foremost, LEAD Atlanta gives participants a good view of the issues facing our great city. Transportation. Housing affordability. Promoting growth while also lifting up those at the bottom of the social ladder. The nonprofit arts sector can be a vital force for making Atlanta better, and the first step to doing this is to connect the dots of issues impacting our great city. 

Harvard Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management: This program helped me see the bigger story of why we exist. Even though we are an improv theatre, we are here for more than laughs. We build community of like-minded creative professionals. We make our neighborhood more vibrant so people want to go out and experience it. This Harvard-backed program will help you see the WHY and then turn that into strategy for strong growth. Finally, one of the best parts of this program was working with international nonprofit leaders from all sectors, which gave me new perspectives on ways to solve problems. 

Silent Meditation Retreat: A good leader should be able to trust their team. Need to prove to yourself that the company can succeed without you? How about being totally out of touch with everyone! No cell phones. No internet. No talking. Nothing but you, your body, and your thoughts. If it sounds scary, it might just be good for you. I left Dad’s Garage in the hands of my team, and it proved to be incredibly transformative not just for me but for the organization as well. 

Regional Leadership Institute: One of the best ways to solve the problems facing our region is to connect with other leaders, discuss the problems before us, and figure out ways to work together to solve them. Many problems, such as transportation and inequality, are interconnected, and RLI gives participants a bigger picture about how we can band together to address the big problems facing our region.

Don’t forget about your team! Are there budding leaders you are helping to develop? A good leader should be able to build new leaders, and often that means encouraging them to take courses specific to their needs. Here are some of my favorites:

Arts Leaders of Metro Atlanta: This fantastic series covers all the issues facing the arts in our region. Ever wanted to hear from a foundation donor, grant reader, or corporate sponsor on what THEY are looking for? ALMA will give you that learning opportunity, and more! Hear from local media, real estate developers, and economists about different ways to grow reputation and recognition of the arts in our region.

Access365 with Georgia Center for Nonprofits: This subscription program will give your team access to incredible classes and resources at GCN. Your team can take specific courses such as “Facilities Management” or “High Potential Developing Leaders” geared towards their specific needs and interests.



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