The A to Z of Arts Management - Love
For years I’ve been an arts manager, an arts board member and an occasional arts management academic. And although there are some great arts management books to both learn from and teach with, they only seldom combine theory and practice, insights of success and failure, and story telling to help people understand how to do their job better. In this series, I introduce a selection of neglected aspects and competencies from my book “The A to Z of Arts Management”. This chapter is about love for ones job and why it is important to be more open to the desires and needs of the people you work with and for.
Bolman & Deal (2013, p. 401) say that love is largely absent from modern corporations. It’s certainly not part in many indices of management text books. But it comes up in the arts management research regularly along with words such as family and friendship (Fitzgibbon 2001). People talk about their love of the organisation, of the art form, of their artistic or management partner. The interviews we conducted for our research on leadership in the performing arts (Macneill & Tonks 2009, p. 397) were full of the word:
You’re working for love basically, so you actually have to enjoy what you doing. [GM7]
I think the motivating force is a general love of [name of organisation] [GM6]
I can’t work with anyone I don’t love in this business. If I’m not in love with my Artistic Director I can’t do it. And so there is automatically a relationship that is deeply personal and deeply respectful. [GM 5]
In Hewison, Holden & Jones’ (2013, p. 148) article on the Royal Shakespeare Company, they call the leaders regular and explicit reference to emotions ‘remarkable’. They quote a speech by Michael Boyd in which (along with words like terror, daring, fear, empathy and compassion), ‘love’ was used ten times.
The reasons that Bolman & Deal (2013) offer for love’s absence from the corporate world is because of the power and risks inherent in its meaning. Love, they say, means vulnerability, being open to others. These aren’t words don’t fit neatly with words connected to management such as ‘direction’ and ‘control’ but they do fit in neatly with another definition of management – “refined communication” (Adams 2007, p.193). There is even evidence to prove that love should be part of organisations. Moss, Callanan & Wilson (2012, 37) quote research evidence that “Images of love, but not sex, enhanced the capacity of individuals to solve conundrums. These images of love highlighted the potential of a stable future, which in turn improved the insights of participants.”
Gail McGovern (2014, p.38), the President and CEO of the American Red Cross has said that looking back at her time in the corporate sector, she should have been more willing to embrace the ‘heart’. Her perspective now is that as a leader your job is to tap into the higher purpose of your organisation which you can’t do by retreating to the analytical. “If you want to lead, have the courage to do it from the heart.”
In a sterner directive of why love is important in organisations, Elsner (2001, p. 5) quotes Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk and Poet (1971): “He, who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without love, will not have anything to give others. He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centrered ambitions, his delusions about ends and means and his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas.”
Adams (2007, p. 223) notes that “[e]mployees that feel that their work (and by extension life) is meaningless will have little love for their boss.” But on the other hand, do you want to be/should you be loved by your employees? Isn’t it about love for the organisation, for the output and love of the people who make it rather than wanting love for yourself? Even friendship is an awkward issue when you’re the CEO. People often used to say to me “how lucky you are, to be friends with all those famous people”. But of course I’m not. Because ultimately I’m the boss. I’m the one that signs their employment contracts, approves their salaries and potentially fires them or fails to re-hire them if they don’t work out. Respect, yes. Parties, of course. But friendship isn’t an automatic part of the mix.
The situation is the same with staff. One manager had a habit of telling staff about his weekends and sexual conquests on the basis that this was what friends shared. Not appropriate. Another manager was desperate for her staff to like her and so never said ‘no’. Not appropriate. However this doesn’t mean that warmth, care, openness, empathy, compassion aren’t part of the employer/employee relationship. When you leave, you want people to come to your farewell and say “she was a good boss” or even “he was a good person” but not “I’m losing my best friend”. Even in organisations where the environment is very family-like and socialising goes on inside and outside, there will still be times when the caring leader has to be authoritative.
However, it is very hard to stay in an organisation where the culture isn’t a warm one and where you as a manager are continually under attack. The hardest examples that I’ve heard of in the arts have come from symphony orchestras where there appears to be a tradition that management is the enemy. I have heard managers talk about their unwillingness to go to work because the aggression from staff is so strong. So if not loved, then at the very least you want to be valued.
So love is a powerful concept and should be part of your organisation but it’s not about you being loved. Watch out for dysfunctional love and when the love dies, it may be time to move on.
- Adams, J (2007): Managing People in Organizations: contemporary theory and practice. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke.
- Bolman, LG & Deal, TE (2013): Reframing Organizations ,5th edn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Elsner, PA (2007): Authenticity and Leadership: Integrating our inner lives with our work. Leadership Forum, Iowa State University.
- Fitzgibbon, M (2001): Managing Innovation in the Arts. Quorum Books: Westport, Conn.
- McGovern, G (2014): Lead from the Heart, in: Harvard Business Review, 92(3): 38.
- Hewison, R, Holden, J & Jones, S (2013): Leadership and transformation at the Royal Shakespeare Company, in: Caust, J (ed): Arts Leadership. Tilde University Press: Melbourne, 144-158.
- Macneill, K & Tonks, A (2009): Co-leadership and Gender in the Performing Arts, in: Asia Pacific Journal of Arts and Cultural Management 6(1), 291-404.
- Merton, T (1971): Contemplation in a World of Action. Doubleday: New York.
- Moss, S, Callanan, J & Wilson, S (2012): The Moonlight Effect. Tilde University Press: Melbourne.