One of the benefits of working as a consultant is that it offers the opportunity to view so many different styles of management and to observe the consequences of each style.
It is clear to me that there is not only one "correct" way of managing. Some managers are very involved in each decision made by their subordinates, others give more latitude to their employees to make decisions on their own. Some work in numerous formal meetings, others prefer more casual interactions. Some prefer that board members work exclusively through them, others see the merits of allowing relationships to form between numerous members of the staff and members of the board.
I have observed organizations that prosper in many different combinations and permutations of these differing managerial approaches.
But one management characteristic is essential in building a happy and productive institution: the ability to convey, with great clarity, all plans, directions and desires.
Vague managers always fail. Staff are left to guess what the executive is thinking and wanting. This always leads to wasted time, effort and resources, and arts institutions simply do not have any time to waste.
Vagueness also results in staff members working in differing directions, often at cross purposes; they are doing what they thought their leader wanted but interpreted vague instructions differently. Marketing and fundraising approaches are not coordinated, artistic endeavors are undermined and financial health can suffer.
And board members and other volunteers and donors have a difficult time rallying around imprecise visions for the future. Most board members require clear leadership because their interactions with the organization are sporadic, and they do not necessarily know or remember every detail about the operations of the organization.
Those managers who speak with clarity run happier arts institutions because staff members do not have to constantly re-do their work because they didn't quite understand the initial instructions. As a result, these institutions can produce so much more. Productivity always leads to fulfillment, not to mention greater artistic and financial success. Most staff of arts institutions are committed to the missions of their organizations; when a lack of clarity impedes the achievement of that mission, it is demoralizing.
And a clear, precise leader can inspire the allegiance of the board members who understand exactly where they are headed, why resources are required, how to measure success and how they fit in to the work of the institution.
For some leaders, imprecise language results from simply a lack of communication skills.
But in my experience, lack of precision results most often from a lack of a clear plan. When a leader has not selected one path, it becomes difficult to explain where the institution is headed and how one is going to get there.
Lack of clarity as a leader results from lack of clarity in the plan going forward. Initiating a comprehensive planning effort can help the imprecise arts manager develop a clear game plan and eliminate a great deal of unnecessary discomfort within the organization.