The Supporting Leadership Report

Two adults in discussion at Supporting Leadership focus group

Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums are pleased to announce the release of the Supporting Leadership report: the culmination of a research and knowledge exchange project examining the role of executive and administrative assistants within the cultural sector.

Findings from the Supporting Leadership project, one of the first detailed investigations of this staff group, have revealed the importance of this overlooked section of the workforce in the cultural sector. The project has been led by a small team at the University of Oxford’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums with contributions from staff across more than 60 UK museums, libraries, heritage sites, and arts and performance organisations. The Supporting Leadership report suggests opportunities for change and calls out for action from the sector.

Despite the value administrative staff bring to an organisation, both leaders and support staff agreed that these roles are undervalued with some support staff describing their contribution as ‘invisible’. A lack of professional recognition drives this discontent, a problem that seems heightened in the cultural sector where certain roles – e.g. in curation and with collections – are perceived as more important.

“Administration underpins every aspect of working life and there are many benefits to be gained at both individual and institutional levels in ensuring that we value and strengthen these foundations,” Vanessa Moore, lead author of the Supporting Leadership report.

The Supporting Leadership report sets out recommendations for greater clarity in role definition, for raising awareness of administrative work across institutions, and for creating a culture where staff feel empowered to take ownership of their work. The report also provides practical advice for both leaders and support staff with a series of tools focusing on role descriptions, working environments, recruitment processes, and development pathways.

Supporting Leadership focus group in a meeting

The report urges leaders in the sector to consider:

  • How they value and recognise the work done by their support staff
  • How they can better define the scope and boundaries of support roles
  • How they can help to increase understanding of these roles across their organisations
  • How they can support their staff in identifying development opportunities

The Supporting Leadership project is supported by the University of Oxford Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund which provides small-scale grants for early-stage innovative knowledge exchange ideas.

For more information and to download the Supporting Leadership report, visit the Supporting Leadership project page.

Images: UAS Conference, photo John Cairns; Executive and administrative support staff from Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums taking part in a ‘Supporting Leadership’ focus group