2014 & BeyondPosted: December 27, 2013
As the history and cultural heritage museum field sets its sights on 2014, how will it grapple with leadership and governance? Will anything change? Does the field believe it needs to change? Is there a chance that leadership and governance will be as important to museums as collections and interpretation were 40 years ago? We hope that happens.
We believe that museums, and particularly history museums, historic homes and heritage organizations need to put leadership at the top of the to-do list. Why? Because we believe that intentional forward-thinking leadership is the key to moving history and cultural heritage museums beyond the post-recession doldrums in which so many find themselves.
Here are our wishes for the New Year: We want the field to embrace and understand the importance of individual leadership training. When leadership takes hold, we know good things happen at the admission desk, in collections storage, and in the boardroom. And organizations benefit when they empower individuals to act, entrusting them with not only responsibility but also authority. Investing in leadership training is as important as good collections care. We also hope history and heritage museum employees commit to leadership personally. Leaders–wherever they are in the organizational food chain–who model courageous and visionary behavior lead change. That means that graduate programs in museum studies need to offer courses in leadership either on their own or in cooperation with MBA programs. Last, leadership begins when boards understand the power and responsibility of their institutions. Until tiny, underfunded historical organizations realize that having board members take a board training course or a new director take leadership training through the local chamber of commerce, college or university, the culture won’t change.
History organizations need strong leaders who are articulate about their organization’s uniqueness, and they need leaders who can persuade a community that being in the presence of a real object, painting, site, you-name-it is more powerful than seeing it online. That takes people with passion, entrepreneurial spirt, and the ability to size up problems, make decisions, and take risks. We know the leaders are out there. Let’s make 2014 the year the field lets leadership flourish.