Emerging Leaders

Who Are Emerging Leaders?

Dance/USA surveyed 113 emerging leaders in the field in April of 2009 to help answer this question.
Their responses indicated that emerging leaders:

  • should be able to self-define as an “emerging leader”.
  • will most likely be under the age of 35.
  • will most likely have fewer than 10 years of experience in the field.
  • have positive leadership qualities such as “intention” and “potential.”

Learn more about the survey results.

Emerging Leaders in the Dance/USA Community

The looming generational change in leadership is a challenge for those involved in leading, funding, and serving the not-for-profit dance community. As the national service organization for professional dance, Dance/USA believes it can play a pivotal role in helping organizations, established leaders, and emerging leaders in the field address the challenges related to generational change in leadership.

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What’s At Stake?

This transition poses complex challenges. Generational change in leadership involves organizations and the Boards who are responsible to them, established leaders going through transitions out of their careers, and emerging leaders taking on new responsibilities. Part of the difficulty is that few opportunities exist for emerging leaders in the field to be in “deputy” positions where they can learn leadership skills without taking full responsibility. The lack of these positions is largely due to the lack of resources at organizations. As a result, many gain experience by leading small organizations when they are unprepared to lead, then moving up to larger organizations. This is destabilizing for smaller organizations in the field and often stressful for emerging leaders.

Next Generation of Leaders

The next generation of leaders indicate that they are as committed and willing to lead as their predecessors. This generation is more likely to have a post-secondary degree directly related to their field and many are positioning themselves for leadership with education rather than with experience. Currently, there are fewer opportunities to “work one’s way up” within organizations, and there are large gaps between entry positions and leadership positions in dance organizations. This generation also has different expectations about work and life balance and different priorities in terms of compensation and recognition.  Emerging leaders are accustomed to a high level of interactivity with peers through social networking and seek opportunities to network with peers and other generations of leaders.

Support for Emerging Leaders

To effectively address the needs of emerging leaders, Dance/USA will focus on three broad areas:

  • Training – while emerging leaders often have an educational background in their field, they don’t have as much access to on-the-job training or direct, career-related learning opportunities.
  • Opportunities – the most valuable asset for emerging leaders is the opportunity to test their leadership skills and develop them over time by gradually increasing their leadership responsibilities.
  • Connection – emerging leaders need to be encouraged to stay in dance.  One of the strong forces in keeping these leaders engaged is a sense of connection to a strong peer support network.
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