1st Edition

Co-Leadership in the Arts and Culture Sharing Values and Vision

By Wendy Reid, Hilde Fjellvær Copyright 2023
    290 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    290 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is about co-leadership: A leadership practice and structure often found in arts organizations that consist of two or three executives who bridge the art and business divide at the top.

    Many practitioners recognize this phenomenon but the research on this topic is limited and dispersed. This book assembles a coherent overview and presents new insights of the field. While co-leadership is well institutionalized in the West, it is also criticized for management’s constraint of artistic autonomy and for its pluralism that dilutes leadership clarity. However, co-leadership also personifies the strategic objectives of art, audiences, organization, and community, by addressing plural logics – navigating the demands of artistic vision and organizational stability. It is an integrating solution. The authors investigate its specifics in the arts, including global practice and its interdisciplinary nature. The theoretical frame of plural leadership supports their empirical explorations of the dynamics within the co-leadership relationship and with organizational stakeholders. Data includes the voices of co-leaders, artists, staff, and board members from arts organizations in Canada and Norway. Their abductive reflection generates a stimulating research experience.

    By viewing co-leadership in action, not as a study of static theories, the book will appeal not only to students and researchers but also resonate with practitioners in arts and cultural management and assist them to work with co-leadership and to manage its tensions.

    1. Introducing and Summarizing the Book

    Section I: Framing the Research

    2. Interpreting Organizational Context for Arts Co-Leadership

    3. Parsing Co-Leadership Theory for the Arts

    4. Situating Co-Leadership in the Arts Globally

    Section II: Theorizing Relational Dynamics in Arts Co-Leadership

    5. Working with Interdependence: Logics, values, and the shared role space

    6. Challenging Equality: Pluralism, competitive conflict, and social hierarchy

    7. Contending with Ambiguity and Vulnerability: Leaps of faith and mechanisms of trust

    Section III: Theorizing Organizational Dynamics with Arts Co-Leadership

    8. Managing Risk: Board-staff relations, co-leadership, and information asymmetry

    9. Following and Influencing Co-Leaders

    Section IV: Structuring Co-leadership Research and Practice

    10. Charting Insights and a Future Research Course: What and who, how, where, and why?


    Wendy Reid is an Honourary Professor with the Management Department of HEC Montréal (retired summer 2021 – formerly Associate Professor) after an executive career in arts management in Canada.

    Hilde Fjellvær is Associate Professor with the NTNU Business School and a member of the Faculty Board. She is Chair of the Board at Rosendal Teater in Trondheim, Norway.

    "Plural forms of leadership where two or more individuals share roles at the top have recently attracted a good deal of interest. The phenomenon seems to run counter to preconceived notions of leadership. Yet, co-leadership is common in the arts and culture sector. Fjellvær and Reid have independently conducted intensive qualitative studies of how and why this might work. This volume integrates their insights. It is beautifully researched and offers a sophisticated understanding of executive co-leadership, its challenges, and its potential. It is a must-read for academics, practitioners and policy makers interested in the governance and leadership of arts and cultural organizations." Ann Langley, Co-editor, Strategic Organization, Associate Editor, Academy of Management Journal and Emerita Professor, HEC Montréal

    "Reid and Fjellvær’s book on co-leadership in arts and culture is a timely and welcome contribution to the literature on nonprofit leadership. Their volume is among the first and most integrative on the topic, making an important contribution exploring the dynamics, dilemmas, and paradoxes of this oft-confusing management configuration. While this book focuses on arts and culture organizations, its content and insights offer important value and options for effective executive leadership to all third sector governance and management scholars and practitioners in an increasingly complex and dynamic environment." David Renz, Bloch School of Management, University of Missouri – Kansas City

    "A book focusing on the challenges and idiosyncrasies of co-leadership in the arts and cultural setting is much overdue. I am delighted that Wendy Reid and Hilde Fjellvær have undertaken this deep analysis around the distinct attributes of this phenomena. It will make an important contribution to our field, theoretically and practically, and be an essential teaching aide in arts leadership." Jo Caust, University of Melbourne

    "Co-leadership in arts and culture is a common but very delicate alchemy. Under-researched and under-documented, the tension in these relationships is central to success in these organizations. Understanding its dynamics and limitations will undoubtedly provide important answers to guide public policy in support of the arts, as well as offering practical insights for those who work within it daily." Nathalie Maillé, General Director, Conseil des arts de Montréal – Montreal Arts Council

    "What a joy to read a book that explores creating art within a dynamic, communal, and social context. For in the performing arts, we work together, in the spirit of creating values, culture, aspirations and ultimately art. It is anything but lonely. If, as some say, music really occurs between the notes, a similar alchemy happens between people who strive toward a shared purpose." Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director, The Stratford Festival of Canada

    "Having extensive arts board experience, I can say this book will be very useful. It will help everyone interested in co-leadership understand the complexity of this form of management. I have seen every leadership problem over my 48 years of practice. Every manager should stop and think about how they do things. Reid and Fjellvær will guide their reflections." François Colbert, Carmelle and Rémi-Marcoux Chair in Arts Management and Codirector, Master of Management in International Arts Management, HEC Montréal

    "Understanding the dilemma of logics between artists and managers in the complex governance of arts and culture is indispensable. This book addresses the ambiguities of this interesting polarity. Hierarchy problems are inherent in governance, subject to context, but Reid and Fjellvær demonstrate their universality in the arts. This book is indispensable to foundational knowledge of arts and cultural management." Jaime Ruiz-Gutierrez, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia  

    "This brilliant book rests on the simple but profound observation that leadership in arts organizations is different. Drawing from their extensive engagement in arts and culture, Reid and Fjellvær elaborate the concept of co-leadership, a model of distributed power that challenges our assumption of leadership as an individual phenomenon. This book will be an inspiration to arts managers and organizational scholars alike." Roy Suddaby, Winspear Chair of Management, Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, Canada, and Professor of Entrepreneurship, Carson College of Business, Washington State University, USA

    "Scholars have paid frustrating little attention to the peculiar complexity of co-leadership, preferring to focus on individual leadership. Yet co-leadership is common in organizations of skilled professionals including the arts, where they embody and reconcile competing interests of stakeholder groups. Reid and Fjellvær’s book is an important addition to the literature as an incisive and comprehensive overview of a fascinating and important topic." Laura Empson, Professor in the Management of Professional Service Firms, Bayes Business School (formerly Cass), University of London.

    "This MUST-read book will prepare readers to cope with post-pandemic changes in many settings. Although set in the arts, insights on co-leadership address the accelerating need for collaboration, co-operation, and co-construction to manage change with openness. Both authors have solid experience in observing, analyzing, and theorizing key success factors of co-leadership. Readers will be inspired and stimulated by this book." Johanne Turbide, Secretary-General, Director of Sustainability, Responsible for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, HEC Montréal