I recently returned from an NAEA leadership conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico titled, "The Artistry of Leadership." In many ways the conference was like any other professional development conference—motivational, informative, and team building. We heard from many distinguished and exemplary people over the course of two days, one of these incredible people being William F. Baker, Ph.D.
Baker, who has spent his career in television, directs the Bernard L. Schwartz Center for Media, Education, and Public Policy at Fordham University. He is also Journalist-in-Residence and a professor in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham. He is a distinguished professor at IESE Business School and is President Emeritus of WNET, New York’s public media station and the premiere source of PBS programs nationwide. Dr. Baker has been a broadcaster, executive, author, sought-after public speaker, and academic for close to four decades. He has co-authored the books, Every Leader is an Artist (McGraw Hill, 2012) and Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results (American Management Association, 2008). Baker also hosted the PBS documentary Leading with Kindness, which premiered on public television in 2008.
Needless to say he was more than qualified to speak to us about the values of leadership in the arts. What I learned most from Dr. Baker's keynote is the following—artists and educators have power to shape society. More power, perhaps, than any other professionals in society. His reasoning was that artists, by virtue of their characteristics, see the world differently and therefore perhaps see the big picture. He sited other attributes including how artists work for an audience, affect lives profoundly, motivate and support, learn through practice, turn vision into reality, and draw from themselves and who they are daily (depth of self).
As an art educator, I can no longer see a divide between being an artist and being an educator. They both serve the core of why the arts are so very important in learning, thinking, and doing. Baker eloquently put forth in his book, "every leader is an artist." I would add that every artist is a leader who not only advocates in everything he or she does but also models the habits of mind and processes that Baker was talking about when he cited the powerful attributes artists possess that make them powerful in society.
Advocacy, by definition, is support for a particular cause. Leadership allows us to not only show that support but advocate in ways that support the growth and development within our professional communities. As we face new challenges with data collection and standards in teaching we have the opportunity to lead and advocate. We can lead by collaborating. We can lead through kindness. We lead can through finding new ways to accomplish goals. All the while keeping in sight what we value most as a whole.