Race, contest, competition… rivals, front runner, loser… knocked out, eliminated…the final battle… and the knives are out…These are the leadership words we’ve been hearing and reading of late.


Time to remember there’s a bigger, broader and brighter picture available on other channels.


Look outwards at another country, where Jacinda Ardern the New Zealand Prime Minister led with hugs, communicated with clarity and demonstrated her integrity ‘meaning what she says, saying what she means, unafraid and unbowed’ and put it into action (see Suzanne Moore in The Guardian).


Look around at another sector, where The King’s Fund Ninth Annual Leadership and Management Summit for senior leaders in health and care organisations next month is all about compassionate and inclusive leadership.


Look across our sector, where there’s not just attention to the Whose art? question but increasingly also the Who’s leading? one and importantly, How?


Alongside others – like A New Direction and their Cultural Leadership Community programme enabling London teachers to take a leading role in cultural education, to name but one exciting initiative – ArtWorks Alliance contributes to leadership development in different ways, at different levels.


For example, Engage runs the Extend leadership programme for mid-career learning and participation colleagues from across the arts and cultural sector and across England, Scotland and Wales. It has a transformational effect on participants (yes, they’re participants not delegates) and their sense of self as leaders. As one mentor noted about their mentee at the end of the last programme: ‘They had a new level of influence, a goal to widen their leadership within the organisation and in turn to place their work and the work of their organisation in a leadership role within the sector.’


Heads Together Productions is mid-way through their innovative coaching-based programme Union –The Northern School for Creativity and Activism for emerging community artists and social activists excited about using creative approaches to achieve social change and make a better world. Trinity Laban offers Learning and Participation Fellowships supporting the professional development of individual music leaders working in any participatory music setting.


Interwoven Productions CIC’s article in ArtsProfessional explains how their participatory, place-led art is not only influenced by the landscape of Exeter where they work, but also what François Matarasso calls working ‘without help, without permission’ where it is local people’s active agency that leads and they own their art. Interwoven’s hyper-local squilometre model ‘runs in community perpetual motion’, with support.


And looking in at itself as a network, the Alliance is exploring concepts of the decentralised organisation, deep democracy and ways of ‘inhabiting participation’ in how it works, as much as what it does.


There are different models of leadership – and leader/s – beyond the cacophony and lack of listening of the be-suited on a bar stool.

Mary Schwarz