Oxford Cultural Leaders ran for the first time in 2015 and again in 2016 and 2017. We had an amazing cohort of leaders from the UK, Europe and beyond. Here is what they thought of the programme.
What has the impact of the programme been on you?
Oxford Cultural Leaders enabled me to see the benefits of not trying to solve my team’s problems, but to look at ways to support them to resolve things themselves and mostly this has worked. I feel more confident in holding back. Rachel Hudson, Director of Marketing, Communications and Development, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
The course was excellent, challenging, thought-provoking and engaging. It is exactly what is needed for leaders in the arts sector. It provided me personally with a great opportunity to review and test my own practice, and to draw on the wisdom of others, both the impressive speakers and academics and the other arts leaders on the course, who were all brilliant. Graham Henderson, Chief Executive of the Rimbaud & Verlaine Foundation
Oxford Cultural Leaders did two things for me. It told me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong, but it also showed me what I can do differently. Alistair Burtenshaw, Director, The Charleston Trust
The programme gave me confidence and renewed energy, as well as a useful chance to step outside the immediate pressures of my organisation and consider the issues I face from a distance. [It] both supported and reinvigorated my approach. Henrietta Boex, Director, Falmouth Art Gallery
I came back thinking I am a leader. I have always lead organisations but never thought of myself as a leader. I do now. Karen Botha, (former) Director, Powell-Cotton Museum, House and Gardens
The whole experience had an impact on me; it was intensive from first thing in the morning until the last thing at night. The diverse cohort facilitated learning from the experiences of others, which was affirmed by leading practitioners who’s vigorous sessions got you to think differently. Alistair Burtenshaw, Director, The Charleston Trust
The challenges I brought with me to look at in the week are now being addressed and by the end of the year measures will be in place. The inspirational sessions from the week have been turned into something real. Rachel Davies, Deputy Director, Compton Verney
It was an incredibly empowering week. I returned to work with a sense of agency. It made me realise that leadership doesn’t just happen. It’s a conscious practice. Jane Severs, Director, Association of Heritage Industries Newfoundland and Labrador
My sense of confidence and perspective, when considering my leadership skills and their relevance to the wider cultural sector, have significantly grown. I have learned new tools and established a wider network of peers I can consult and continue to learn from. Emily Scott-Dearing, Lead Curator, Medicine Galleries, Science Museum
The programme has helped me contextualise myself and has been a huge confidence boost. It was great to get a different perspective of myself – thinking about what I want, what I do and where I want to go. I also liked the fact that the programme looked at your impact on your organisation as well as yourself, and that we thought about our impact on the sector. Anna Bright, Manager, Elmbridge Museum, Surrey
Oxford Cultural Leaders validated me as a leader. I genuinely loved it. Traci Dix-Williams, Director of Operations, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
Since the course I have had renewed energy and the projects I organise are now much more focused and larger scale. Lone Britt Christensen, Cultural Attaché, Embassy of Denmark, London
In the roles we’re doing all the time, we can lose sight of what we’re trying to achieve. Oxford Cultural Leaders gave me the opportunity to think and reflect. Rachel Hudson, Director of Marketing, Communications and Development, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
I’ve done many courses and was quite sceptical I wouldn’t get anything new. But from the first day I realised it was something completely different. The programme was put together so sensitively – the whole conception was a beautiful thing. Kristel Oitmaa, Cultural Diplomat, Estonia Embassy, London
Putting yourself in context is hugely interesting. Meeting and listening to all the other participants was impactful. I’m from a tiny organisation but realised I’m dealing with the same kind of issues. Charlotte Cunningham, Artistic Director, Turtle Key Arts
Why should you choose Oxford Cultural Leaders over other programmes?
What surprised me most was the programme's ability to suspend the participants’ status issues and positioning and create a trusting, open, generous and sharing environment between us. It allowed us to work really well together, and this did generate some incredible moments of co-creation. Anette Østerby, Head of Visual Arts, Danish Arts Council
Oxford Cultural Leaders was pitched at exactly the right level and was very sophisticated in the way we were taught. It was all unexpected and wasn’t like I thought it would be at all. It was compelling and immersive. It wasn’t a manual of how to lead. Karen Botha, (former) Director, Powell-Cotton Museum, House and Gardens
It was the perfect programme. I have never been on a course that was so carefully thought through and planned. It gave me new perspectives – the Business School involvement gives perspectives you wouldn’t get elsewhere. Lone Britt Christensen, Cultural Attaché, Embassy of Denmark, London
Oxford Cultural Leaders gave me excellent material, which I have referred to. But the main thing has been around confidence in myself and to use the skills I have learnt. Rachel Davies, Deputy Director, Compton Verney
Which session had the most impact and why?
Do I have to settle on one?! The penny dropping on outputs vs outcomes with Maurice, and my excitement at the prospect of applying this to my latest project. And the King on horseback and the chairs with Piers, because it combined a good belly laugh with a powerfully made point about keeping teams focussed and involved when I thought I'd run out of head space to learn any new lessons. Emily Scott-Dearing, Lead Curator, Medicine Galleries, Science Museum
Working together with my colleagues to prepare a business pitch as part of the entrepreneurship seminar with the Said Business School. It was a real pleasure to work as a team and under pressure with such a talented and experienced group of arts leaders, and to present alongside them. This was merely one of the highlights. The programme as a whole was full of great experiences of shared working, which was educative, useful and enjoyable. Thanks to the many stimulating lectures and workshops all of the participants were able to give of their best, and seemed to get an enormous amount out of the course, as I did. Graham Henderson, Chief Executive of the Rimbaud & Verlaine Foundation
What have you used from the programme in your work place?
I have my Oxford Cultural Leaders notebook with me at work and I still refer to it 3-months down the line. I’ve also been doing things unconsciously; the changes on behaviour have become normal. Emily Scott-Dearing, Lead Curator, Medicine Galleries, Science Museum
I had a trustees meeting the week after the programme and found the programme had given me an injection of confidence and assurance. I want to develop some specific projects around leadership which may lead on to capital development plans and this is all a result of what came out of the Oxford course. Stephen Allen, Head of Learning and Programmes, National Museums Scotland
Some of the sessions on the programme had a trick or a technique you could take back and instantly use, which has been great and immediately useful. But the sum of the sessions coming together to explore adaptive leadership has had the most impact on me. The programme has made me feel more considered about my career, my professional practice and my leadership style. I’m more conscious of the art of what I am doing. Rachel Hudson, Director of Marketing, Communications and Development, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
My team were blown away when I came back. I couldn’t fault the course and I learnt some really subliminal things talking to both faculty and other participants. Karen Botha, (former) Director, Powell-Cotton Museum, House and Gardens
I came back energised and excited and this has rubbed off on my colleagues. Traci Dix-Williams, Director of Operations, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
I have reignited my enthusiasm for the more strategic aspects of my job. Charlotte Cunningham, Artistic Director, Turtle Key Arts
The programme met all of my expectations. Even completing the application form was useful and meant before I’d even started the programme I’d begun to think about and reflect on my leadership practice. Charlotte Cunningham, Artistic Director, Turtle Key Arts
You can use the programme as a transformative process for your own professional development by removing yourself from the day-to-day and projecting yourself into the future, thus seeing how you and your organisation need to change. Going outside of your usual mindset and being exposed to ideas and challenges is a very fruitful experience. Dr Johannes-Geert Hagmann, Curator (Physics) and Officer for Museum Cooperation Deutsches Museum, Munich
I have made a lot of changes as a consequence of Oxford Cultural Leaders. The session on board governance had a big impact and got me thinking clearly about what transformation might look like and enabled me to move my plans forward. Graham Henderson, Chief Executive of the Rimbaud & Verlaine Foundation
I have brought back a real sense of having attended a brilliant course. It was amazing. Jonathan Stebbings’ session on Inspirational Leadership was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. It was the light bulb moment for me. David Wright, Director, Navy Museums, Auckland, New Zealand
The peer coaching was one of the best things about Oxford Cultural Leaders. Having someone you don’t know listening to you with their different input and perspective. Anna Bright, Manager, Elmbridge Museum, Surrey
The themes around creativity within constraint, adaptive leadership and entrepreneurship all came together throughout the week and across the different sessions. I now see myself differently as a result of the overall experience. I hadn’t had that external mirror to see myself in before and I think I now understand my place within the wider sector. I wanted that context and I got it from the programme. I now see my potential more clearly. Emily Scott-Dearing, Lead Curator, Medicine Galleries, Science Museum
I feel that I am using what I got out of the programme in terms of ideas and tools, but I also made some great connections with other colleagues on the programme. Not only do I feel that I could go to anyone of them and ask for their thoughts on any matter but some of these relationships could develop into practical partnerships between our organisations. Rachel Hudson, Director of Marketing, Communications and Development, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
The games and exercises we did had such deep meaning behind them and they demonstrated so cleverly how our behaviour impacts on others. It really made me think much more about what I say and how I behave. Kristel Oitmaa, Cultural Diplomat, Estonia Embassy, London
Oxford Cultural Leaders has given me so much confidence that I feel ‘safe’ to lead colleagues back in my country. I think the fact I did this course helped me to get my new job in Enterprise Estonia. Kristel Oitmaa, Cultural Diplomat, Estonia Embassy, London
Where there any other benefits to attending the programme?
The pre-course reading was very good and well-judged. It reinforced learning during the week. Rachel Davies, Deputy Director, Compton Verney
The pre-course work was also very helpful. It forced us to reflect on what we would take out of the programme. You pushed us from the start which enabled us to make the most of the 6 days. Dr Johannes-Geert Hagmann, Curator (Physics) and Officer for Museum Cooperation Deutsches Museum, Munich
The calibre of participants was incredibly high and we came from such different organisations. Here am I starting something from scratch whereas other colleagues were looking to reinvigorate practice in established organisations, but we still all converged on the same points. Graham Henderson, Chief Executive of the Rimbaud & Verlaine Foundation
Would you recommend the programme to other people?
I would absolutely recommend the course to other colleagues. The quality of the people on the course was amazing and it was really thought-provoking. It made me look at the issues we contend with in a completely different way. Rachel Hudson, Director of Marketing, Communications and Development, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust