March 21, 2016


Currently, I’m doing a lot of reading around the subject of critical thinking and one of the books that I’m finding fascinating is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast & Slow. In the process of doing so, I’ve been reminded about how much I don’t yet know about so many topics surrounding the notions of management and leadership. So it seems only appropriate that this week’s letter is an extract from K for Knowledge.

There must be someone in Melbourne who thinks that they’re going to gain some knowledge by reading The A to Z of Arts Management. Within a couple of days of the book being put on the shelves of the University of Melbourne’s library, it had been stolen. Should I take that as a good sign or not?

Here’s some of the words that the book thief will have found under K:

“Knowledge can be described as a “dynamic collection of information and skills” and wisdom as a combination of knowledge plus experience and good judgement (Sommerton 201,p. 155).

Starting with skills, arts managers in the Ireland came up with the following list (in order):

  • Ability to effectively schedule time, tasks and activities, to organise resources and to establish a course of action to accomplish specific goals
  • Ability to express confidence and to be decisive
  • Ability to listen to others’ viewpoints, negotiate sensitively and take account of other’s needs
  • Ability to quantify and organise needed financial resources and to monitor their expenditure accurately
  • Ability to make effective written presentations to others
  • Ability to make effective verbal presentations to others
  • Ability to develop and maintain networks and formal channels of communication with the outside world
  • Knowledge of funding resources
  • Ability to influence people and “win the day”
  • Ability to stick to a plan and not get side-tracked
  • Ability to assign tasks to others and to monitor their performance
  • Ability to conduct effective group meetings
  • Ability to keep abreast of relevant local, national and international political, economic and cultural developments
  • Knowledge of local, national and international structures
  • Knowledge of legal issues (Clancy 1997, p.360).

These are mainly pragmatic skills which can be gained through formal learning and experience. And experience is a good teacher. At various points in the arts management subject I teach, I ask students to reflect on their positive and negative work experiences about, for example, the leaders and managers they’ve had or the elements of the environment that have motivated or depressed them. After getting the resulting key words on the whiteboard, I suggest that they take a photograph of them: because that should be the document that accompanies them into their employment future. People know from their own experience what makes a good leader, what motivates them, what a good cultural climate feels like, the results of working in an effective team. And equally they know what’s wrong and what doesn’t work.

Clancy, P 1997, ‘Skills and Competencies: The Cultural Manager’ in Fitzgibbon, M & Kelly, A, From Maestro to Manager, Oak Tree Press, Dublin 341-366

Sommerton, J. 2010, ‘The place of practical wisdom in cultural leadership development’  Kay, S & Venner, K (eds), A Cultural Leader’s Handbook, Creative Choices, London, 114-119