Balancing Attributes for Developing Leadership in the Arts

Kimberly Payne

Balancing Attributes for Developing Leadership in Arts

The role of the leader in an arts organization is to balance the operations, reputation, and strategic success of the company. This requires specific leadership attributes that bond captivating artistry with professional ethics. Developing the leadership attributes of charisma, empathy, and Many artists and their organizations face peaks and valleys in status. When the terrain is multidimensional and operational activities challenging, these attributes will equip leaders with influence, crisis intervention, and sustention.

Charisma to Gain Influence

The personal allure of artists and their work is important to the success of an arts organization. It ignites a vision that attracts funders, sells tickets, and creates audience loyalty. Leaders must develop the attribute of charisma to gain influence in executing and maintaining the organizational vision. Affecting follower emotional and cognitive responses is a tool of charismatic artists.  Leaders also require the ability to arouse behavioral changes in others through artistic appeal. Maintaining operational details and integrity of vision implementation will be efficacious with this attribute and its properties.

According to Nisbett and Walmsley (2016), “charismatic leaders are seen as extraordinary individuals and are excessively romanticized by arts managers, policymakers, and audiences” (p. 2).  Leaders who have developed the character attribute of charisma will have a balanced perception of those with a natural inclination.  This is important because persons with natural charisma can be viewed as loose cannons within an organization (Borek, Lovett, & Towns, 2005). In the context of organizational vision, leadership can apply generative techniques without placating the ability of the artists’ evangelistic nature.

Funding, ticket sales, and follower loyalty are critical to all arts organizations.  Each artist with individual appeal brings attention and continuity to the business. Leaders advancing their understanding of charisma can influence followers with the organizational vision.  This encourages the audience to allow emotional and cognitive investment in the arts.  Stimulating art spectators to become dreamers for a brighter future is the primary reason artists and arts leaders devote themselves to the arts; therefore, expertise in regulating charisma and advancing vision implementation is vital for success.

Empathy During Crisis

The attribute of empathy proves to be significant for arts leaders. This is because the pulse of an arts organization represents the heartbeat of its artistic team, the management, and the public.  Artists thrive when creating art based in prophetic insight to global and regional emerging issues.  Leaders who develop the ability to empathize with artists and audiences bring balance to the organization by intervening during times of crisis. Because the leader and artists are interdependent, they must rely on each other to understand the stories of pain and traumas expressed through the arts. Developing the relatable attribute of empathy allows leaders to support their team in affecting public opinion.

Lygia Clark created an art installation at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1963.  By offering interactive art and craft opportunity to the public, she sought to heighten the awareness of the interdependency the public has with the earth’s resources. “Clark’s Caminhando/Walking (1963) consists of a Möbius strip, a strip of paper that is twisted and fixed in a loop, that the viewer is invited to cut, starting by making a hole in the middle of the strip and continuing in consecutive circles around the loop until the remaining sliver of paper is so narrow that it is cut through, resulting in the end of the action and the death of the piece” (Gauld, 2014, p. 396). Gauld’s research offers that it is a recent discovery for leaders to understanding the role empathy plays in reframing and approaching critical issues (Gauld, 2014). This artistic expression is meant to create empathy regarding ecological crisis and exploitation of human and natural resources. Similar to the revelations of Winston Churchill calling attention to the oncoming crisis of the Cold War the public could not yet see, artists’ revelations often fall out of vogue (Borek, Lovett, & Towns, 2005). These futuristic stories of oncoming trauma expressed through art can be a valuable insight into crisis intervention when respected and appropriately highlighted.

An arts leader’s sensitivity to the overall view of crisis can use the attribute of empathy to inspire hope and fortitude to all followers: team, management, and audience.   This fine-tunes audiences to remain invested, realize their power, and to take part in forming creative solutions. Because emerging issues have a way of overwhelming the public and causing momentary paralysis, leaders who can empathize with creative people and the public bring opportunities for composed crisis intervention. Interdependent and generative curation helps artists reveal prophetic knowledge.  Empathetic support is deeply desired by artists and will cultivate an environment thriving, thus creating an underpinning of confidence in a strong organization.

Hope Leads to Sustention

Many arts organizations place the burden of fund-raising, personnel management, and daily operations on one or two primary arts leaders.  It is important for the arts leader to stay focused and nurture his personal and spiritual core. The attribute of hope leads to personal and organizational equipoise in the arts because it creates sustention. Hope is developed when leaders refuse to minimize the importance of their inner life. Retaining and leaning upon spiritual fundamentals allow leaders to press beyond resistance.  A prerequisite for arts leadership is developing faith that cultivates long-term hope.

Ezra, a Biblical prophet, recognized God was the provider of all he needed, even when the resource seemed to come from other sources (Borek, Lovett, & Towns, 2005). By believing that there was more than meets the eye, Ezra practiced faith-based principles that filled him with hope and prepared him to face large challenges. He was ready to face the opposition of others as he continued to pursue his calling from God (Ezra 4, New International Version). Recent research from Greffe, Krebs, and Pflieger, (2017) indicates that “the vast majority of public funded museums are suffering severe and continuous declining resources” (p. 319). Now, more than ever, arts leaders need to present the resolution of hope within their organizations. It must become unimaginable for arts leaders to lose hope. The arts are birthed from the hope of building a better future and preserving history.

Because the pressure of working with limited funding and personnel resources is prevalent for arts leaders, remaining focused and healthy in mind, body, and spirit is a high priority. The attribute of hope leads to individual and organizational balance in the arts because it helps the maintenance of life. The inner spiritual essentials of Godly love, peace, and joy allow leaders to persevere when difficulties arise.  Faith fosters long-term hope in the life of all leaders, includes those serving in the arts.


The current business trend is that the duties of the arts leader will continue to expand within the arts organization.  Fulfilling the role of supervising operations, reputation, and the strategic success of the company will require precise leadership attributes that combine artistry with professional ethics. Leaders who focus on developing the attributes of charisma, empathy, and hope will provide balance to the arts organizations they serve. Hard times will come and go, but the perseverance from these attributes will prepare leaders for influencing, intervening during a crisis, and bringing sustainability.


Borek, J., Lovett, D., & Towns, E. L. (2005). The good book on leadership: Case studies from the Bible. Broadman & Holman.

Gauld, Q. (2014). Empathy beyond the human: Interactivity and kinetic art in the context of a global crisis. Technoetic Arts: A Journal Of Speculative Research12(2/3), 389-398.

Greffe, X., Krebs, A., & Pflieger, S. (2017). The future of the museum in the twenty-first century: recent clues from France. Museum Management & Curatorship32(4), 319-334.

Nisbett, M., & Walmsley, B. (2016). The romanticization of charismatic leadership in the arts. Journal Of Arts Management, Law & Society46(1), 2-12.

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