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An editorial sponsorship banner in partnership with Ticketsolve. Text that reads 'An ArtsProfessional feature in partnership with' followed by Ticketsolve's logo. The banner is dark blue.

Leadership in the arts has always been a vital component of the creative process. But, as Sean Hanly says, the key to successful leadership is laying the foundations for future leaders.

'Leadership' concept: lots of people in the bottom half of the image. Sun is shining to create many shadows. They are all following one person who is slightly ahead.


From theatre directors to museum curators, leaders in the arts play a crucial role in shaping the cultural landscape of our society as well as paving the path for the next generation of arts leaders. 

A typical day for arts leaders can range from firefighting to problem-solving to ensuring that team members who aren’t entirely burnt out are motivated and feel valued and appreciated. The role isn’t Monday to Friday, and it certainly isn’t 9 - 5. 

As a result, leaders in the arts have to think creatively to keep their organisations afloat, to streamline their processes and build confidence not only among audiences but also among their teams - the next generation leaders. 

A demanding full-time operation 

The sector is demanding and while passion and mission drive early career professionals into the sector, it’s not long before these motives are robustly tested. Arts Manager is only one of several hats that today’s cultural leaders have to wear. And there’s an urgent imperative to do more with less, given the current economic and political climate leading leaders to question what exactly it is they should be doing when they’re pulled in all directions. 

Our top tips for when you’re questioning your leadership practices include: 

1.    Data culture is decision culture 
By making data central to decision-making processes, leaders can ensure their strategies are based on hard evidence and can make adjustments as needed to achieve better outcomes. This not only helps organisations make more informed and accurate decisions, but also promotes a culture of accountability and continuous improvement. 

2.    Firefighting shouldn’t be constant
Proactive planning and strategy often slip down the list of priorities. But by allow them the time they deserve, they will help mitigate potential issues, reduce the need for constant firefighting and create a more stable and efficient work environment.

3.    Your people are your most important asset 
Your organisation’s success relies heavily on the skills, knowledge and dedication of its employees, making them a crucial factor in driving growth and achieving long-term goals. 

Core values as part of a holistic leadership model 

Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick recently reviewed some of the issues it faces as an important community venue to see how it could make a positive impact. The leadership used the occasion of their tenth anniversary as an opportunity to take a hard look at current practices and processes and to identify changes towards a greener future for themselves and their sister arts centre, Belltable Arts Hub. 

With sustainability at the core of everything they have adapted, their team have not only seen great results in terms of ROI of their latest (and greenest) brochure, but also an impact across their sustainable fundraising campaign. You can read more about their sustainable leadership journey here

A network of motivators, change seekers and norms disruptors

One way for arts leaders to make a meaningful impact is through collaboration. Working with other arts organisations, community groups and business leaders can help to build stronger, more sustainable arts communities. 

The Arts & Culture Collective, a cohort formed across the UK and Ireland, is one example of collaboration in the arts. The initiative aims to understand how data is used to inform innovation in practices that lead to greater sustainability throughout the sector. 

Collaboration can help build stronger, more sustainable arts communities. Various group members are presenting some of their conversations at an industry event this month in London.* 

The future reality for arts management 

The future of arts management is in good hands with the next generation of leaders who are passionate, innovative, and possess a diverse skillset. With these unique perspectives, the leaders working are poised to tackle the challenges of the ever-evolving industry and create new opportunities for growth and impact. 

We see sector leaders constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible and bringing fresh ideas to the table through their understanding of the importance of technology, sustainability and diversity in shaping the future of the arts. 

As we look to the future of the sector, it’s clear the next generation of arts managers will play a crucial role in shaping the future of the arts for years to come including restoring confidence amongst the current workforce, and the future generation of arts leaders. 

Sean Hanly is Chief Executive Officer at Ticketsolve.

*The Ticketsolve Forum 2023 RECHARGE takes place in Conway Hall on Thursday, 23rd February. The conference is free to attend and aimed at all levels of leader positions in the sector. More information here

This article is part of a series of articles, case studies and industry insights looking at the power of data to inform strategic decision making.

Link to Author(s): 
Sean Hanly