How Many Of Your Power Players Sit On The Board?

The March, 2013 edition of Chicago Magazine features an article titled “100 Most Powerful Chicagoans” and my first thought was “I wonder how many from the list serve on local performing arts boards?” Imagine how pleasing it was to see that one of the related featurettes, “It’s Cozy at the Top,” connected those very dots in a convenient infographic.

Out of the five high profile arts orgs in Chicago included in the magazine’s criteria:

  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Fifth Place with 3/12 members; Nos. 18, 44, & 58
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago: Third Place with 5/12 members; Nos. 4, 12, 69, 76, & 87

If your city doesn’t have a handy reference like the list from Chicago Magazine, it is always worth your while to begin compiling one then setting about the task of making connections.

Sure, it’s one thing to have a firm sense of who’s who but I have yet to encounter an instance in all my years of consulting where charting these sorts of connections out doesn’t produce some meaningful realization. From a board development perspective, it can be particularly useful on a host of different levels.

I’ve worked with charting projects that sparked a healthy competitive spirit in some board members which, in turn, was converted to positive results for the organization. The most gratifying scenarios are those that help board members move away from zero sum perspectives about resources and potential and move toward something capable of realizing something more than sum of its parts.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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