Development priorities

International Cultural Leadership

by Julia Rowntree, Rose Fenton and Lucy Neal

Whilst many studies focus on leadership within the business and political sectors, this report is one of the few that focuses on international leadership in the field of culture.  Through a series of interviews it investigates the international development experiences of a range of cultural leaders in order to better understand how leaders might be equipped to lead in an increasingly complex and intimately connected world.  The work sets out to answer two facets of the same question - what does it take to lead in an international context today, and what does international experience bring to the development of the competencies required?   Through its research, this report then proposes a draft framework of the competencies necessary for successful international cultural leadership, on multiple stages whether in local, regional, national or international.

The authors, Julia Rowntree, Rose Fenton and Lucy Neal, were colleagues at the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) from the early 80s until 2005.  An independent arts organisation at the vanguard of international contemporary performance, LIFT pioneered initiatives in artistic practice, education, civic engagement and professional development, and since leaving LIFT, all three continue to lead international cultural initiatives. Taking their own knowledge and experience as starting point, the authors drew up a hypothesis of the vital dimensions to international leadership and tested these against interviewee responses, and against perspectives from other individuals with an overview of, and interest in, the field of international cultural leadership and its development.

A significant number of common themes emerge from these interviews, with four dimensions identified as being critical to international cultural leadership and its development: values and beliefs; psychological attributes and life experience; intellectual capacities and practice; and social and collaborative capacities.  Explored in depth with examples from the interviews, these are used to provide the analytic framework for an assessment of the necessary competencies.  As well as proposing this model, the report reveals that the rewards of working internationally far outweigh the challenges.  By engaging internationally, cultural leaders seek out the richest places of learning and adaptation, and through opening themselves up to challenges at the point where emergent worlds meet, they are better able to create new knowledge and innovation in practice.


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