Supporting early career leaders is among the priorities for the funding, which will also aim to tackle the lack of diversity in sector leadership.

Black and white chess pieces on a chess board

A £6m programme to support leadership development in the arts, museums and libraries has been announced by Arts Council England (ACE) – its largest investment in leadership development since the launch of the £12m government-backed cultural leadership programme in 2006.

Grants of between £150,000 and £1m will be made for programmes or interventions to support people to achieve their potential and bring on the next generation of leaders.

The fund will support providers to design and deliver “evidence-based” interventions, support new approaches to leadership development, and move the practice of leadership development forward.

The priorities for the Transforming Leadership fund are:

  • addressing the lack of diversity in sector leadership  
  • developing leadership skills at an executive level
  • addressing the lack of opportunities for leaders in the early stages of their careers.

It will also fund leadership development activity aimed at freelance workers with the potential to take on leadership roles.

The activities envisaged will include “innovative interventions in executive and non-executive leadership learning, networks, and development”. These could be in the form of mentoring, coaching, action learning sets, structured academic programmes, online modular learning, short residential courses, work experience and initiatives that promote role models.

The funding stream has been created following the publication of an evidence review and research which concluded that “leadership should be nurtured and fostered at all levels in an organisation to reflect an inclusive and shared organisational culture but also to facilitate longer-term succession planning”. Researchers found that current opportunities for leadership development are limited and “not fully meeting the needs of the sector.”

Introducing the fund, ACE’s Director of Skills and Workforces, Jane Tarr, said in a blog: “A goal for most of us in our working lives is to work effectively in safe, happy workplaces, which attract and nurture talent. This is also key to the long-term success and sustainability of the cultural sector. That’s why we’re launching Transforming Leadership.”

She continued: “…we are also looking to increase our understanding of what works. We expect robust evaluation plans for all proposals and we want grantees to illustrate some of those exemplary leadership behaviours in working with us on evaluation… If we’re all going to increase our investment in people in future, and it’s a pretty low baseline at the moment, we need a better sense of what the return on that investment will be.”

Liz Hill