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  • Kim Senklip Harvey

We Will Only Be As Innovative As Our Leaders

A big part of my artistic practice is that I actively and frequently study leadership.

I am constantly seeking out opportunities to be a more effective leader almost equally as I much as I am studying and creating art. With articles, podcasts, books and I'm adamantly watching and studying the leaders in and outside our sector. I watch moments of micro level leadership happening behind a coffee bar to the obvi big stuff in the headlines happening around the world.

With the NTS Artistic Leadership program, Head Coaching Team Canada Men’s Roller Derby and assuming positions of decision making in theatre, these are all training opportunities to make me a better community member to foster, elicit and champion innovation and excellence. I do not want to be a leader that is just regurgitating old models. I never wanted to be a director doing their best impersonation of what they think a director is.

I think approaching leadership that way is why there are a lot of people out there dealing with imposter syndrome. We can only ever be the leaders in our practices that we can be and that's drawing on our own expertise, experiences and make up. I need to rigorously and constantly be investigating the leader that I am meant to be. One that comes from my land, my people and my ancestors. When I think about the terrain of who I am and how my people have sustained this long it's because of the deep listening, respect and responsive behaviours we embodied living with the impermanence of the land.

In translation to holding positions like a Director, Playwright/Fire Creator this means that there are so many variables that are constantly evolving and just like the land I need to be responsive to and in service of. Methodologies and approaches should change with the landscape and I think that constant professional and personal development is absolutely needed in the theatrical sector.

I think the community needs systems to hold those in leadership accountable. I think AD's performance reviews should be shared with the public - are they even getting reviewed on an annual basis by their boards? I'd like to hear about institutions middle and upper managements ongoing professional development training. What leadership models are being used for directors to be hired? There are so many knowledge sharing opportunities that I think the whole community can and should be more accountable to.

But ya'll like that's what AGM's are for but more often than not I see companies disguising their AGM's. Yes, they can be really dry and boring but I believe that reporting out to your most engaged stakeholders about your performance and strategy for the year should be really fucking exciting. If the model your using is archaic then change it. Leadership is not just about addressing the AGM but thinking bigger and deeper to realize why the AGM is necessary to patron and community development and then the whole model and method can be responsive to what the community and your org needs.

I actually like a good AGM. One that's efficiently and comprehensively sharing their financials, I enjoy listening to final reports from the departments that touch on what was successful and what needs improvement. To me it's all a part of org health and that critical and honest self reflection in an AGM should reflect how that gov't funded entity we're all invested in is doing. I'm not into AGM's that get shy or self-conscious or distracted about sharing their reports that actually really worries me.

AGM's are just one aspect of the sector that I think innovation and deliberate energy needs to be given more attention. I think the status of AGM's in the community are symptomatic of a lack of innovative thinking. I hear people say but nobody wants to come and listen to this boring stuff and our Boards are so overworked we can't plan much more because we don't want to increase their workload. It's this vicious trap within a scarcity mindset that absolves us of the responsibility to be more effective, innovative and resourceful.

You know I picked my psychologist because on his website he said he is constantly going to conferences and working with his mentors in and out of his sector to better his ability to do his job. I want that rigour in my health and I want that rigour in theatre.

With every leadership position I assume I am humbled by how much I have to learn and I'm compelled to be more innovative. I am responsible for the players artistic health, wellbeing and excellence which is a direct result of my leadership. If we want innovative art I believe we need leaders who are courageous and conscious enough to recognize that our art is only going to be as innovative as our leadership.

Remember when Hilary booked her Presidential acceptance speech in that glass building as a metaphor for her breaking the glass ceiling? It was sad to see that space empty but jesus at least someone thought about the act of breaking through and it wasn't some generic dumpy conference centre. In sports I knew we'd only be as great as the most excellent athlete on the team, so I would work those athletes the hardest because if they were going to be our ceiling, I wanted it to be really fucking high for the rest of the team to work up towards.

Where's our ceiling at homies?

With humility, respect and courage,



I listened to this podcast tonight with CEO Jeff Weiner who talks about leading with compassion and thought there were some insightful teachings.

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