Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Bit of Background

It all started last October, when 52% of the employees at my small, Honolulu-based non-profit arts organization were laid off. I would like to say I was one of the lucky minority, but I was not. I would like to say that the powers-that-be had made a huge mistake, but they did not.

The simple fact is, the layoffs had been a long time coming. Large-scale inefficiencies had dominated the operations of the organization for years. Although the factors that contributed to the layoffs were devastating (namely the drastic drop in the stock market and the subsequent devaluation of the organization's already small endowment, as well as the drying up of donations and grants), the layoffs themselves were one of the smarter things the organization could have done.

The layoffs were also one of the better things that could have happened to me. Through the networking tenacity of former supervisors coupled with sheer luck, I had dotted the i's and crossed the t's on a new offer of employment from another local non-profit arts organization within two weeks of leaving my former position.

The culture of my new workplace is astounding different. Transparency and innovation are core values that trickle down from the upper echelons of the organization into every aspect of its operations. Seeing these components of a successful, efficient organization in action has taught me the fundamental importance of strong leadership. In business, and especially in non-profit arts organizations, pure passion and good intentions alone are sadly inadequate. However, it is often just these sorts of passion-driven arts advocates, lacking in quantitative backgrounds and hard business experience, who end up at the helm of arts organizations.

I don't want to be one of those people. So it is with that driving motivation, to be the kind of leader who can support the arts with both passion and business savvy, that I embark upon this MBA journey.

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