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Champions of Change Makers: Follow Your Leader

The following blog consists of takeaways from the November Arts Marketing Coffee Chat “Champions of Change Makers: Follow Your Leader,” where senior marketing leaders explored how to reaffirm purpose and passion for their work as leaders of change-making in the arts. 

All-In-One: “If I want something done right, I’ll just have to do it myself…”

… but the to-do list on your sticky note that’s been on your desk for the past three weeks is still there. If you’re lucky, 42% of it is crossed off, but the to-dos on that sticky note are duplicated in three other places (other than your head): Somewhere on the G-Drive, less formally in your notes app, and don’t forget about the work journal that you always drag to your Monday meetings.
Does any of this sound familiar? Problem is, you need a few extra pairs of capable hands who will do the work with the same skill, passion, and finesse that you have. Wash, rinse, dry and put away is merely a set of steps for cleaning the dishes. The nuances and “in-betweens” about the sticky floor, taking out the garbage, and refreshing used towels are the differences between finished and well done.

If you could duplicate yourself by simply having someone shadow your steps, you’d do it daily and twice on Sundays—but you don’t. I’ve always said, “The strongest leaders are the smartest teachers.” It takes an uber-power to teach someone else to become a high performer with the intuition to drive solutions, and the consistency of leadership to develop others around them. When you can automate the duplication of your leadership, you’ve become the one that does and teaches. 


OK Miriam, but what does this have to do with the complexity of change? So glad you asked. Everything. Do you remember our past 20 months? When change (the only constant) actually becomes turbulent, how do you navigate its complexities and hold a team together? Our burnout is “on steroids” because we’ve been failing forward and flailing through unexpected challenges. The forward failure is why we are still here. However, the next inch of growth is thriving through catastrophic changes beyond our control.

It is always counter-intuitive to remain calm and not scream for help when you are drowning, but you’ll need every bit of your energy to survive. So, stop freaking out. Literally start breathing, deeply, slowly, and calmly. Listen to your breath. Watch the water’s cadence as it moves around you. Look for the shoreline—not to measure your distance away from it, but to heighten your awareness for your direction towards it. It becomes the difference between you getting swallowed by the ocean or floating above it. Defying the gravity of change means that you must adapt to your surroundings, and quickly. It’s also counter-intuitive to lean back or lie down in water, but it is how you float. Try going against the grain of hitting the panic button for a change.


Does your team know how to peg you? I mean, really get you, beyond having your Starbucks coffee order down to a fine science or knowing your favorite stocking stuffers every year. Can anyone articulate who you are, how you lead, and how that pragmatically translates into how your company functions?

This deep awareness of who you are (identity and values); where you are (internal compass point); how you see (vision and mission); and how you lead (strategy and method) informs quite a bit. How you budget, make executive decisions, or launch hybrid experiences during COVID-19 speaks more to your awareness than it does to your ability.

Putting it all together

Brace for change because it is coming, and faster than any of us are able to predict. We don’t often count the unseen casualties of the mind, heart, and spirit. We’ve been marred as a result of both the global explosion of a pandemic and the internal implosion of our inability to self-regulate. Who is still “normal” after watching the last eight minutes and 26 seconds of George Floyd’s life on national television? Who is “normal” after attending a grandparent’s funeral over Zoom? After January 6, 2021? 

We have all been over-exposed. We are all in triage, trying to bandage each other’s wounds, but it is what good soldiers do. You are good at what you do because you can tighten sloppy copy. You are good because you can sync the boilerplate to reflect the executive shifts in the strategic plan. You can develop a marketing strategy that makes sense internally to operations and from a PR perspective. You're probably good at what you do because you can reiterate all that I’ve said here in 35 characters or less. However, I want to empower you to be good at “just being.”

A final call to inaction

Let’s not allow the self-care items on our to-do lists to be overlooked for more than two weeks. But if it only takes five minutes, cross it off the list within 48 hours. Maintaining a safe space to prioritize self-care and self-awareness is what provides direction and protection when the tide rises and the waters rage … again. I’m logging off now. I’m going to follow my own advice to “just be.” There's a salted butterscotch candle from Bath and Body Works waiting on me.

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