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Report: Shifts in cultural leadership due to a generational change

[Translate to Englisch:] © frei nach Creative Commons pizzodisevo 1937
© Creative Commons pizzodisevo 1937

The term 'cultural leadership' is used to refer to leadership and management within the cultural sector. At the same time, it also includes responsibility for social objectives in addition to a company’s profitability. This leadership position – or rather role – is undergoing a transformation as part of the generational change from the baby boomers and class of ‘68 to Generations X and Y. The study by Birgit Mandel also investigated how the generations of cultural leadership actually differ in terms of their objectives and assessments of the situation. To this end, they surveyed members of both the older and younger generations of leaders.

As well as differences, however, the study also revealed a wealth of commonalities. Both older and younger managerial staff consider globalisation, migration and digitalisation to be a challenge. That being said, members of the older generation focus on maintaining a high level of artistic quality when it comes to addressing these challenges, whereas the younger generation is focused on current social and societal problems and on finding a proactive solution to them.

On the one hand, both generations also believe that there is potentially huge scope for action as a result of virtual inaction on the part of public funding bodies. On the other hand, they see themselves as being dependent on financial resources and rigid institutional structures, with the latter tending to deliver only a slow pace of change – especially as this is often dependent on the staff at the institutions.

The major difference emerges in the way the respective generations perceive their leadership role. Although members of the older generation prioritise communication and transparency, at the same time they also see themselves as a lone manager with clearly defined responsibilities. In the younger generations, however, there is a widespread concept of a leader who sees themselves as more of a moderator and who allows a participatory style of management. In addition, younger generations of managers place particular emphasis on the importance of flexibility, working atmosphere and work–life balance. Among other things, this is intended to combat the growing problem of overburdened staff.

As is so often the case with a generational change, however, the question is: when will it actually be complete? Younger generations are noticing that many managers from the older generation occupy key positions and intend to remain there, meaning that change will be slow or marginal and the young generation’s potential cannot yet be fully demonstrated.

Once that stage is reached, it will become clear whether 'agile leadership' or 'shared leadership' will prevail. Even now, some managers concede that have had to modify and adapt their style due to negative experiences and increasing team sizes.