Supporting Leadership

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Supporting Leadership

Supporting Leadership is a research and knowledge exchange project examining the role of executive and administrative support staff in the cultural sector. The project seeks to gain a better understanding of the role, to define best practice, and to provide resources, support and development opportunities for this staff group. 


Executive assistants play a key role in supporting cultural sector leadership. They provide a vital service to leaders, managing their offices and ensuring the smooth running of their engagements and fulfilment of their commitments. At an individual level we are certain that executive assistants are highly valued within their respective institutions, however, as a collective, we believe that this staff group has been overlooked. They are absent from specific studies on cultural sector leadership and underrepresented in broader sectoral research, resources and initiatives. 

In this project we will examine in detail the work of executive and administrative assistants in the cultural sector in order to better define and raise awareness of this role. We will use a digital consultation to gather information from across the sector and will explore the function of the role within institutions of different sizes and remits, consulting with both executive assistants and the leaders they support. The project outcomes will include a formal report and resources that can be used at both an individual and an organisational level to encourage best practice in this area of work. We also hope to establish a network that will enable peer support and which can be used in the future to share and create new opportunities for training and professional development specifically for the executive assistant staff group. 

In summary, Supporting Leadership will….

  • Provide a better understanding of the role of executive support staff in the cultural sector
  • Define best practice in this area of work
  • Create frameworks and resources for use by both leaders and executive support staff
  • Identify challenges and development needs
  • Establish an inclusive network for peer support and to facilitate future projects

Our aim is for the project outcomes to be of specific value in the fields of recruitment and professional development. We believe that a more nuanced understanding of the nature of the role will lead to more accurate assessments of organisational requirements (including within small institutions who may not have capacity for these roles but may still need relevant duties to be covered), and that a better understanding of the needs of this staff group will help facilitate the improvement of professional development and career progression opportunities. In the future, we hope the research could extend to other administrative roles more broadly, within and beyond the cultural sector. 

Project team

Supporting leadership is a project based in Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) division at the University of Oxford, and is supported by Knowledge Exchange Seed Funding. The project is led by Vanessa Moore, Programme Coordinator for Oxford Cultural Leaders, and Emma Thomas, Administration Manager at the Museum of Natural History

Vanessa Moore  |  

Emma Thomas  |

The project team are supported by advisors Lucy Shaw, Head of Programmes and Partnerships and Director of Oxford Cultural Leaders, Rachel Davies, Head of Operations at the Ashmolean Museum, and Sara Harman, Executive Assistant to the Director of the Ashmolean Museum. 

Key dates

Digital Consultation launch
July 2019

Final Report published
November 2019

Get involved

Please help us by participating in our digital consultation. The digital consultation is now open, please visit for more details.

We would like to consult with both current and former executive assistants (including individuals holding different titles in similar roles, working to support senior staff members) and the leaders they support and welcome participation from all who believe the project to be of relevance to their work.

We would also be very keen to hear from you if you are a member of an organisation or relevant network who would be able to promote and encourage participation in the digital consultation or if you are a provider of training and development initiatives that may be relevant to this staff group. 

If you would like to get in touch, please contact us at and


Download our press release:

Follow our progress

Updates will be posted on this page as Supporting Leadership progresses.

You can also follow us on twitter @vjamoore and @emmaclogs and #SupportingLeadership



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