A standing woman leads a workshop with seated adults, behind her a fliphcart
This is the third in a series of blogs exploring the creation and development of our Leadership programme for learning and engagement professionals in the Arts and Cultural sector. Read the 4th blog post here. 

A group of sixteen participants from across the West Midlands, a third from local National Portfolio Organisations were recruited. This group then participated in a four- day leadership programme held at the Library of Birmingham, over a four month period.

The four one-day sessions covered the following:

  1. Personal leadership, self-awareness and working with others.
  2. Leading with influence – understanding the cultures you work within and how to influence with positive impact.
  3. Political skills to influence context, partnerships and networks -understand the wider political and societal context for arts and culture and working with young people.
  4. Change management and resilience – staying on the positive side of change and use creativity, learning and resilience strategies to stay well.

How did our Programme Support Learning and Engagement Professionals?

As highly accomplished experts in their respective fields, our programme provided the personal leadership and management development elements to strengthen existing skills and build resilience. We used psychometric tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality profiles and preferred influencing styles to help the group enhance their self-awareness and their awareness of others. This helped participants reflect on inter-personal relationships and effective working relationships in delivering successful projects and programmes.

Combating the isolation felt by many participants, our programme encouraged them to have an appreciation of the wider environment and systems relating to their work and to develop the ability to operate deftly with political awareness and with the necessary political skills required to thrive in the sector.

Mid-way through the programme, participants were exposed to a range of high profile speakers including: Gary Topp – Director of Culture Central; Louise Richards – Founder and Executive Director of Motionhouse; Janine Eason – Director of Learning and Operations at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum; Ammo Talwar MBE – CEO Punch Records; Tania Raabe-Webber – award winning Visual Artist and Rob Elkington – Director of Arts Connect, who provided international, national and regional perspectives on leadership and explored the wider political, economic and social influences on the arts and cultural sector. This enabled the participants to see a broader context for their work, to anticipate how the sector was changing and developing and how they could respond effectively. Grasping the external dynamics allowed them to keep their work contemporary, contextual and relevant to both young people and the organisations they worked for, producing programmes ‘zinging’ with contemporary relevance in the sector.

Managing Change

Given that the sector is perpetually changing due to external political and financial pressures, structures within organisations are also changing. Learning and engagement professionals are often caught in the middle of senior management re-structuring, having to re-structure their own teams and reduce their budgets but with the expectation that they will maintain income levels.

In recognition of this, the fourth day of the leadership programme focused on change management, the various management frameworks tools and techniques that can help leaders and managers deal with change and thrive through finding new ways of working and relating to the wider arts and culture system.


Further support was given through one-to-one executive coaching and mentoring. Each participant was offered at least one session which centred on their individual leadership challenges which were identified as the programme progressed .

Learning Objectives

Participants had a learning plan developed with their sponsors to structure their personal learning objectives and to identify opportunities to apply that learning. Sponsors were most usually the Line Manager of the participant, or in the case of those who were self-employed, a referee from within the sector. Sponsors provided support in the development of the participant, both during and after the programme.

Validating the Learning

The University of Wolverhampton validated the leadership programme as a Postgraduate level module entitled Leadership in the Arts and Cultural Sector; the module carried 20 credits and could be used towards a Postgraduate qualification such as an MA. If participants chose to do so, they could undertake an extended research project around their leadership challenge.


Blogs by:  Susan Goodwin:  Associate Director of Culture at Arts Connect, West Midlands ( in partnership with Munira Thobani: Leadership Development & Organisational Change Consultant and Executive Coach.)

Find out more
If you are interested in joining our 2018 cohort you will find more details of this programme here.