There and Back: East Coast to Seattle in Three Very Full DaysPosted: May 28, 2014
For all of you who were able to travel to AAM, we hope you had as good a time as we did. The Leadership Matters session took place Tuesday, May 20 at 3:15 before a SRO crowd. Joining us were three museum leaders interviewed for our book: Edward Bosley, Director of the Gamble House in Pasadena, California; Jennifer Kilmer, Director of the Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma; and Robert Kret, Director of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
We don’t use the word awesome very often, but our session truly was awesome. So, we raise a proverbial glass to the three leaders who shared the podium with us. The handouts from our session, Leadership Matters: A Look at 21st-Century Museum Leadership, are available on AAM’s conference site. In the meantime, here are three takeaways, one from each of our presenters. First, there was Robert Kret, who gently reminded all of us that the museum field has had a tendency to forget the importance of human resources, both as a concept and an actuality. Without judgement, he pointed out the changes in his own organization with the arrival of an experienced HR director. We believe Kret’s comments are worth thinking about. Many museums talk, write, challenge, and support their communities, as reflected in art, history and culture. If, internally, their own organizations fall short of best practices, not to mention ethics and the law, it puts staff in an uncomfortable position, talking about one set of values, while coping with another. That is by no means the sole reason to have an HR professional on board. Keeping and attracting staff is another. We’re sure you can think of more.
Second, was Edward “Ted” Bosley who reminded us of the twin values of humbleness and listening. A true servant leader, Bosley reminded the audience that leaders go last; that you should never ask an employee to do something you are not only willing to do, but have done; that sometimes shutting up, not preaching, but listening brings its own rewards.
Last, Jennifer Kilmer reminded all of us of the power of objects; that cynicism about why we’re in the museum business is misplaced in the face of a four-year old’s discovery that objects are metaphors. Perhaps the lesson is that breathing the same air as something we’ve only heard about or seen online is truly awesome.
We look forward to seeing some of you at the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History in September, where you can meet four more of our interviewees. Until then, you’ll find us here. Stay in touch.