The Australia Council Emerging Leaders Development Program supports arts leaders through specialised training, mentoring and coaching – helping the leaders of tomorrow take the next step in their career. Kristy Rebbeck, Marketing Manager at the State Theatre Company of South Australia and participant in the inaugural Emerging Leaders Development Program took the time to reflect on her experiences and understanding of leadership.
What were your experiences in the 2011 Emerging Leadership Development Program, what did you learn?
The Emerging Leadership Development Program was valuable for many reasons. We were all hungry to learn how to be great leaders and with a group of such cool and intelligent people from different art forms from across the nation, I think we learned so much more from each other than we all expected. The experts that lead the program were inspiring and it really felt like an intense business course combined with personal psychological testing and a bit of group therapy all whirled in together!
The mentorship component was something that I was most looking forward to and it absolutely delivered. Finding the right mentor was a real challenge but I was very lucky in the result and still have a fantastic and very valuable ongoing relationship with the same mentor.
The program aims to “cover a broad range of topics that will stimulate discussion with other like-minded high performing arts leaders, and enhance your knowledge and skills to face the challenges of your future career” and it absolutely does! I learned a lot about traditional leadership styles, how to get the best out of your organisation and the people within, and what makes people work to their best potential; but ultimately I learned about myself, who I am, who I want to be and what could be in my future.
It’s such a dynamic and motivating program to be a part of and I feel really privileged that I had the opportunity to participate.
As you understand it, what is ‘cultural leadership’?
I think cultural leadership is two-fold. Firstly it comprises the traditional business leadership principles of expertly managing the organisation, ensuring it’s financially viable, has a strong strategic direction and most importantly has skilled, valued and happy staff. Secondly, leading culture itself by practising, creating, facilitating or leading projects that generate vitality and creativity and bring the best ideas to the community, while contributing to the economy and society.
What do you think is the most important trait a cultural leader should have?
I don’t think there is only one important trait as there are so many elements that help to create strong leaders, but I believe a great leader needs to have people as their central focus. An inspiring leader needs to be genuine, caring and honest, and to value the people around them while, having the ability to look past themselves to lead the organisation and their team with humour and integrity.
One of the things I have learnt is that I don’t know it all, and I think that great leaders should always be willing to learn new skills, be willing to make changes in order to improve, and to be adaptable to change.
What steps have made you the leader you are today?
Participating in the Emerging Leadership Development Program was an amazing first step. Since then I try to take on as many development opportunities as I can possibly participate in! I have a fantastic mentor (who I connected with in the Emerging Leadership Program and continue to work with today) who helps me enormously to work through my current skill set and identify shortcomings and potential opportunities. Plus I really try hard to put the people I work with and my immediate team first and foremost, support them, encourage them to participate, lead themselves and take them along with all changes and developments.
What advice would you give your past self or someone else about leading others?
Don’t be scared of failure, as even though it has become clichéd, I do believe that all failures are valuable learning experiences. Working in the arts and creative industries, it’s inevitable that we take risks on a daily basis, so with risk comes a lot of challenges and some of those don’t always work out the way we expect or want them to! I think it’s important that as a leader you don’t think you have to know everything up front, you can rely on the expertise of those around you. But also back yourself, don’t take things too seriously and respect your gut instinct too.
What other leaders (past or present) do you admire or look up to and why?
I have been fortunate to have worked with some fantastic strong and inspiring leaders and some that were not so great too! But every leader and manager I have worked for, I have taken so much from each of them. I have had three past managers who have really left their mark on me. They all successfully lead their organisations through change or difficult times, while continually looking after every person in the organisation and making sure everyone was supported and informed. I really admire people who can deliver a clear vision with passion and humour but also be strong enough to make great financial and artistic changes for the company. I have been very lucky that I have had leaders like this and I try to emulate their styles in the way that I work.
Kristy Rebbeck has a strong background working in the arts and youth sectors. Holding a Graduate Diploma in Arts and Cultural Management, she has worked in Australia’s cultural sector for the past sixteen years. Currently with the State Theatre Company of South Australia Kristy has previously managed projects and marketing campaigns for the Adelaide Festival, Carclew Youth Arts, South Australia Youth Arts Board, Youth Affairs Council of South Australia, Adelaide City Council and the Adelaide Central Market.
The 2015 Emerging Leaders Development Program participants undertook an intensive five day residential workshop in April. This will now be followed by an ongoing period of mentoring and coaching with respected senior executives that will continue over the year.
The Emerging Leaders Development Program commenced in 2011 and is now its fifth year.