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David Kershaw Interview

Leadership in the cultural and creative industries
The socio-economic landscape for the cultural and creative industries has moved on rapidly in the past three years since the launch of the Cultural Leadership Programme in June 2006.  A new era of ‘serious’ leadership in ‘serious’ times has been marked by the appointment of Barack Obama as President of the United States during the worst global recession since the 1930’s.  The cultural and creative industries cannot escape the impact of the recession and now is the very time to secure investment in our leaders – to ride through the storm of the recession, but also to produce the next generation of leaders, ready and capable of meeting the new challenges that await us in the period ahead.

Leadership means making people want to do brilliant things for you.  Where people have the drive to be a leader, you can fill in the gaps in their knowledge and encourage them to be better at it.  This is where the Cultural Leadership Programme plays a vital role identifying and researching leadership issues and supporting an ambitious range of leadership development activities and opportunities to ensure that those brilliant things do come to fruition..

Leadership challenges in a recession
As all UK industries grapple with the political and financial implications of the aforementioned recession, the continuing importance of the cultural and creative industries to the UK economy has not diminished, as recent government publications including the ‘Creative Britain Strategy’ (Feb 2008) and ‘Digital Britain Report’ (June 2009) have acutely highlighted. 

Creative businesses are something the UK is good at, it is in our cultural DNA and that’s not going to disappear as a result of cyclical tough time like a recession.  However, when faced with greater financial pressures, it is a scary thing to be a leader.  So, leadership challenges for the cultural and creative industries at the moment will be managing the inherent creative risks while protecting creative outputs. Also, to resist the temptation of employing a defensive mode of behaviour because clients are going through tough times and, finally, effectively leading an organisation capable of making leaps big enough to change the way an audience behaves in an intensely competitive environment. 

My leadership development
Maurice Saatchi, Bill Muirhead and Jeremy Sinclair were my mentors and I still learn by seeing how other people operate, think and get things done.  I would always encourage people to try and work in the best places and work with the best people, to continually keep absorbing, keep learning.  The varied approach to leadership development; work based opportunities, intensive short courses, networks, mentoring and coaching undertaken by the Cultural Leadership Programme is in recognition that one size does not fit all for the cultural and creative industries.

What next for the Cultural Leadership Programme
The Cultural Leadership Programme has sent more than 20,000 people from arts and creative organisations on intensive leadership development courses; taken people from small creative organisations and placed them with bigger companies, such as the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Opera House, where they can shadow leaders and run projects of a new size and scale.  The learning works equally well in reverse, where managers from the larger sector bodies have been placed with micro businesses and experience a perhaps more edgy form of leadership and learn equally valuable skills.   CLP has gone deep and wide to really explore what works best for our sector and our leaders – so we have valued leadership networks and placed a high value on leadership diversity creating an online portal, Creative Choices, to encourage aspiring leaders to find the right information, advice and guidance for their development.  CLP has strengthened links across and outside the sectors, partnering with leading international business school Ashridge to create a bespoke course that brings together leaders from the various commercial creative industries to share and exchange as well as learn and develop. 

Although it is too early to measure the full impact of the investment to date in leadership development for the sector, the early successes of the programme, evidenced in the evaluation report from DTZ, along with increasing sector support for new programmes and accredited courses is raising the engagement, awareness and benefits of nurturing excellent leadership within the cultural and creative industries.

Looking forward the Cultural Leadership Programme will build on its early successes, continue to advocate and promote the value and development of excellence in leadership.  Our USP lies in the researched intelligence and increasing authority as we partner with the best institutions to provide the best learning opportunities.  We will continue to promote dynamic and diverse leaders for the 21st Century – and build the competencies and calibre that keeps the UK at the forefront of innovation and creativity internationally.  

David Kershaw was interviewed by Stephanie Haughton-Campbell, Independent Creative Consultant

"Leadership means making people want to do brilliant things for you"