What is it about?

Ambitious artistic growth caused a financial crisis in nonprofit arts organizations. Board members faced dilemmas complicating governance for these volunteer trustees (Cornforth, 2003). They admired and trusted the artistic director's reputation for innovation. However, these crises stressed the relationship between the board and their executives causing organizational tension and loss of talent. Four stages of difficult change and reconstruction occurred in order to regain stability.

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Why is it important?

Charismatic artistic leaders are both attractive and dangerous. How do boards of directors manage and govern these leaders and the organization while maintaining a balance of trust and distrust? Forewarned is forearmed.


This is an age of artistic celebrity that is sometimes tarnished by revelations of leadership abuse. The governance formula now includes managing artistic leadership, something that boards have wanted to avoid in the past. A new balancing act exists around governance priorities beyond finances versus art. The cases felt familiar, but the analysis informed my own professional experience. They appear even more relevant in this new post-COVID era.

Dr. Wendy Reid
HEC Montreal

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This page is a summary of: Board/Staff Relationships in a Growth Crisis, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, March 2011, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/0899764011398296.
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