Does arts-based learning enhance leadership? Case studies of creativity-oriented executive institutes
Katz-Buinincontro, J. (2005). Does arts-based learning enhance leadership? Case studies of creativity-oriented executive institutes. Paper presented at American Education Research Association Annual Meeting, Montréal, Canada.
This qualitative case study examines how arts-based executive leadership training institutes foster creative thinking and leadership capacities. The researcher studied three such institutes as a participant observer and interviewed thirty-two institute faculty members. The institutes’ curricula centered on arts-based activities (improvisational theatre, drawing, and music) but proficiency in the arts was not an outcome goal. The study finds that learning through arts-based activities can be a valuable means of leadership development and describes themes across the institutes in how faculty fostered creative thinking and leadership through arts-based training activities.
The researcher developed a model for creative leadership development based on three themes that emerged from the data: navigation, challenge, and transformation. Navigation refers to navigating or managing problems related to being a leader, such as power, organizational culture, and training. Confronting asks participants to challenge or confront themselves and their thinking. This was accomplished through improvisational teaching methods, learning through the arts, and attempts to bridge the personal and professional. Transformation focuses on developing intrapersonal competencies (e.g., knowledge and skills to perform a job) and interpersonal competencies (e.g., promoting group processes and organization change).
Faculty members detailed how problems with their respective institutes’ leadership, organization, and educational formats were navigated to foster creativity; how the institutes’ participants confronted the self through the arts, experiential pedagogy, and bridging the personal and the professional realms of the participants’ lives; and transforming participants into more creative leaders centered on thinking in newly learned creative ways to enhance teamwork and organizational learning. Overall, the most significant finding spoke to how the institutes’ faculty members drew upon the arts (improvisational theatre, drawing, and music) to develop creative leaders and reinforce key curricular concepts.
Significance of the Findings:Findings suggest that arts-based activities can be effective as a vehicle for showcasing, enhancing, and/or stimulating creativity in executive leaders. The rich description of the researcher’s three cases points to qualities of arts-based leadership activities that may be responsible for fostering creative leadership, which future practice and research might fruitfully build upon.
Without follow-up and continued observation of and reporting from the institutes’ participants (data not gathered in this study) it is not possible to know whether the institutes’ arts-based leadership activities actually brought forth increased creativity in participants’ leadership upon return to their workplaces. Future research might examine this piece of the puzzle and evaluate the researcher’s hope that arts-based executive leadership training can contribute to the reform of public education by equipping administrators with capacities for enhanced creative leadership.