A framework for multiplying leadership practice

This is an extract from Multiplying Leadership in Creative Communities, just published by the Creative People and Places Network.

A difficulty with frameworks is they elide a diversity of ways of doing things, boil a panoply of qualities into a smooth soup of cycles or lists. They can make the difficult seem manageable – or turn the bleeding obvious into buzzwords. They can make the messy seem linear – or in avoiding that become confusing. What follows may fall into all those traps, but it attempts to sum up the main patterns of CPP leadership practice described in the previous section.

What is most interesting to me about CPP leadership is not so much the individual skills but the collective practice. The first question for the potential leader should not be ‘How do I do this?’ or ‘What skills do I have to do this?’, but ‘How do we do this together, and how do I act to help that happen?’ What follows then builds on individual skills and ways of working, especially how each uses some of the elements described in the next section. But this practice is done collectively and collaboratively. 

The framework below can be seen as the attributes of a healthy culture or system as much as that as those working within it. It is a synthesis based on my view of what I have found through the interviews, survey and connecting CPP approaches to other styles and models. 

Multiplying leadership is more a process than a programme or a set of skills, competencies and behaviours, but it is not a linear one. Although the eye naturally seeks lines and circles, reality will mean many loops and steps back and forth between the elements described below. Connection is necessary for collaboration, and then for amplifying what’s done and learning from it, but it can also flow from that collaboration and reflection. Leadership happens in time, and takes time: putting it on the page can make it look static, but it is fluid.

The leadership approach can be summarised as being rooted in activities which

·      Connect people and ideas 

·      Collaborate and co-create with people through exploration of shared purpose

·      Multiply the visibility and awareness of the effect, range and diversity of people involved, and also the collective learning from experience

·      Know the self, the community and the contextand Ask useful questions

The elements of this practice are as follows. There is a recursive pattern here: arguably these elements apply to how the consortium works, to the programme team, to work across localities or neighbourhoods, and to work in the place as a whole, as an ecosystem. The pattern also applied to how new ‘leaders’ have been involved, developed and supported.

Know: the process begins with knowing the place and the community. As mentioned above, this often enhanced by local people being involved in the team. It also includes knowledge of self and organisational values and mission

Connect: implicit in the multiplying leadership framework is that when people connect, ideas come, agency is taken, and change happens. So much of contemporary life and economics, however, serves to separate rather than connect, so a key leadership function for CPP, as in many other community and social cultural activities has been to bring people together and facilitate discussions of assets, needs and ambitions.

Trust: out of connection, when it is done thoroughly and in a safe and open way, can come trust. Trust is the basis for much else in multiplying leadership, as it is in all healthy work places. The dividing leader places more of an emphasis on compliance and contract than trust, to illustrate by way of contrast.

Explore: a key part of CPP leadership practice has been exploration of possibilities, rather than rushing to conclusion and target or KPI driven activity. This has been difficult and frustrating for some stakeholders who are impatient for change or results. It has, though, tended to allow space for unusual suspects, for people to learn along the way, and for new, more co-created, even innovative, solutions to emerge.  

Purpose: although CPP has had its formal ‘exam questions’ set by the Arts Council from the beginning, in terms of increasing arts engagement, providing excellence of process and product, strengthening community engagement approaches, and identifying what has been learnt, each CPP consortium has had to find its own purpose, out of mutual knowledge and exploration of needs and possibilities. This has been replicated at project or locality level.

Co-create: co-creation is both a principal and a practice which has emerged with ever-greater clarity over the lifetime of CPP ,alongside examples in other cultural practice, it must be emphasised. It has become an important aspect to decentralising and democratising movements in culture. It can take a range of forms and depths and is increasingly applied across networks.

Amplify: CPP has been about making things happen. Sometimes these have been big festivals and outdoor events, attracting tens of thousands of people. Sometimes they have been workshops and community events for small numbers of people. What the different approaches have had in common has been the amplification of voices and ideas, of community identity and history, and of pride in a place. Sometimes the messages have been challenging, but this is an important element of what multiplying leadership and art bring to a place: disruptive proposals.

Learn: CPP is an action-research project, and has been funded as such. This is healthily in line with the recommendations of Collaborate CIC to fund learning not outcomes. Reflective learning is seen as key to all CPP places, and to their leadership work. Learning connects to all the other areas of this framework, leading to new and different approaches each time. 

This is a framework for leadership practice which involves more than just those in formal positions of authority consulting others: it is collaborative and more collective. This leads some interviewees to argue that leadership was not the best frame for their work. Essentially, I have retained the word to contribute to the discussion of what leadership in socially-engaged culture might look like. It also relates to definitions as leadership as that which leads to change. 

One problem referred to above is that many frameworks concentrate on leadership by individuals, no matter how connected or collaborative. The frameworks are often implicitly individual/first person singular. However, these could be reframed into the first person plural. For instance, the Clore Leadership and Clore Social models could be reinterpreted as below.

Clore Leadership

First person singular (‘I’)First person plural (‘We’_
Know yourselfWe know our communal/collective strengths and weaknesses
Build relationshipsWe can work together to find shared purpose, making the most of our differences
Be responsibleWe take collective responsibility 
Innovate and embrace changeWe can do things differently and embrace positive change

Clore Social 

First person singular (‘I’)First person plural (‘We’_
Inspirational communicatorWe are able to communicate well between ourselves and enthuse others
Empowering enablerWe are able to draw out the skills and abilities of all of us, so everyone feels confident to act
Focused strategistWe are able to find the best way forward to achieve common purpose
Passionate advocate
We are able to tell our story and generate support
Generous collaboratorWe are able to work together generously
Courageous changemakerWe are able to make changes with bravery

The Multiplying Leadership framework is designed in reverse: from the collective activity of multiplying leadership must be drawn the individual skills and responsibilities necessary. 

This was an extract from Multiplying Leadership in Creative Communitiespublished by Creative People and Places.