Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Management - Why Have a CEO?????


Recommended Posts

A point Mel made elsewhere about corporate models brought back a question I've asked often and to which I've never had an answer that satisfied me. If a company has a chairman of the board and board of directors, an artistic director and a company manager, why do they need a CEO?

Link to post

Why do you think, Mel, so many seem to be so convinced that the corporate business "model" is necessarily applicable to an arts organization? Is it because they don't believe accountability rests with the different departments in the organization or even with its head? I've seen so many problems with them, not to mention that they usually command a hefty salary, that I really think they're pretty superfluous.

Link to post

That is my point exactly. I don't feel that they are useful, in fact, I think that they are downright detrimental to the running of an arts organization. It is a fad of management to have everyone microcompartmentalized, and the deadwood gets hidden in the crowd. There is little or no part for a generalist, or God forbid, a Renaissance Wo/Man.

Link to post

Well, I can't say that the CEO of the South African Ballet Theatre is useless. Ballet in Johannesburg/Pretoria had taken a serious downturn in 1999/2000. Untill then the company never had a CEO. in 2000, however, a CEO was appointed and he is certainly doing the company good, to judge from the greatly increased corporate sponsorship as well as factors such as the increasing appearance of guest dancers and teachers.

Link to post

But did they have a board and a chairman, and did that board and chairman do fundraising? And were there people in charge of paying bills that had an idea of budgets? And was there a good publicity department? I think that if those departments do their jobs properly a CEO isn't a necessary thing and is often a source of utter chaos because they seem to inevitably try to force one thing into the "skin" of another. IMHO of course.

Link to post

I can't answer your questions in detail, I'm afraid, because I haven't payed that much attention to the management of the company. All I know is, that since the appointment of the current CEO, things have been improving steadily. Of course, that still doesn't refute your point that if the other administrators and boards were doing their job properly, the CEO wouldn't be neccesary. By the way, this CEO is an ex-dancer. Maybe that's why he knows the ropes so well.

Link to post
Ballet in Johannesburg/Pretoria had taken a serious downturn in 1999/2000. Untill then the company never had a CEO. in 2000, however, a CEO was appointed and he is certainly doing the company good, to judge from the greatly increased corporate sponsorship as well as factors such as the increasing appearance of guest dancers and teachers.

That doesn't sound like a regulation CEO; that sounds more like a "special master in Chancery" brought in to lead those who are incapable of managing their own affairs.

Link to post

One of the reasons this trend so disturbs me is that sticking blindly to a corporate model leaves, as Mel said, no place for the gifted person without "book learning" but who may have genius and be the best person for the job, to gain the experience they need for it. It is an awful waste.

Link to post

It's tempting to say, "Blame the MBAs, they proliferate their own kind," but it's bad for them, too. A very gifted business professional will tend to get lost in the shuffle of hacks, and there are a lot of hacks out there. The most excellent talents will see or already know about the vital difference between the ordinary business and ballet business, and will adapt practices to face the reality of the work they face. I've seen too many try to make their companies into Chrysler Motors rather than change so best to serve the best interests of the individual company.

Link to post

And these days you also have the cult of the CEO still going strong in spite of everything -- there's something about the title that apparently endows very ordinary MBAs with almost mystical powers, at least until the company tanks. The appointment of someone as the "CEO" conveys the message that We Mean Business -- often all too literally, alas.

Link to post

And perhaps that's why we are seeing the "Sponsorship" of dancer's salaries becoming more prolific, as stated on another thread...?

While arts organizations do need to be financially responsible, they need not becaome "Corporate". That is a dangerous place to be!

Clara :)

Link to post

How long would it be before a sponsor would demand certain roles for a particular favorite as a condition of their sponsorship? What may have sounded good at one level ("We need more money! Here it is! New funding source!) to a corporate point of view is then a bargain with the figurative devil and seems to me to be a byproduct of hiring someone like a CEO (or even, say, a development director) with no real understanding of the organization they're about to enter, regardless of how well they learn the appropriate catch phrases.

Link to post
If a company has a chairman of the board and board of directors, an artistic director and a company manager, why do they need a CEO?

They are two very different functions. The board's function, in theory, is to set policy and to provide financial oversight; the CEO's job is to actively run the company.

In reality, of course, the board's function, usually, is to raise money and in matters of policy and oversight, too many of them merely serve to rubber-stamp the wishes of the CEO and Artistic Director.

Link to post

The mischief can occur. After all, remember when Philip Morris was doing all that sponsoring of ballet companies, and when a tobacco bill came before Congress, how PM "asked" its beneficiaries to write letters in support of the company?

Link to post
How long would it be before a sponsor would demand certain roles for a particular favorite as a condition of their sponsorship?

Or how long until a dancer's contract is not renewed because he/she failed to attract (or hold)* a sufficient level of sponsorship?

* And the possible reasons why a sponsor might choose to stop supporting a particular artist are chilling, to say the least.

Link to post

If the CEO runs the company, what does a company manager do then? :shrug:

I could see needing a CFO before a CEO if for no other reason than to coordinate budgets. Don't most departments have a projected budget that is part of the overall company yearly figure? (speaking of companies that are large enough for departments). And in that case doesn't each department have a chief, head, cook or bottle washer upon whose desk the buck must stop? :)

Link to post

Some misc thoughts.

Although the CEO is a fairly standard role in the business community, I think the holders of that title in the arts world are not so uniform. The CEO in one company is the equivalent of the Managing Director in another, the Company Manager in a third, and the Administrator in another.

In some smaller companies, the board of directors as a group does indeed function as a CEO, responsible for doing or overseeing the administrative functions of the company. As a company gets larger, the board usually is detached from the daily running of the ensemble and becomes what was described below, a body that raises money and sets business policy. This is when the company usually hires someone to oversee non-artistic daily work. In all but the largest companies, this administrator usually combines the functions of a CEO and CFO.

Some companies seems to want an equality of title between artistic and non-artistic jobs, so they'll have an Artistic Director and a fill-in-the-blank Director (managing, administrative, etc) The title Executive Director doesn't seem to be as popular in the dance world as in the general business world, I think possibly because it implies a kind of higher rank.

No matter what the title, the trend seems to be that as a company grows, more and more power leaves the hands of the artistic director. This is more true in ballet companies that in modern ones, where "ownership" is almost always perceived to be in the hands of the choreographer or curator/artistic director. Even so, once a company incorporates, usually in order to get non-profit status for grant applications, the artistic director serves at the request of the board. In small or new groups, the AD is usually also the main person on the board, but the legal fiction still exists that the board is the "owner" of the group. This become even more clear when there is a change in artistic directorship -- they are an employee to be hired or fired.

Link to post

As I understand it the difference between a company manager and a CEO/ Executive Director is this: the company manager oversees the day-to-day needs of the dancers themselves including but not limited to payroll, accomodations, rehearsals, performance venues, travel, etc. The CEO handles the business end of running of the company helping to oversee all the other departments including but not limited to development (they're the people who ask for money), marketing, operations, facilities, etc.

Seems like the best run companies are the ones who have an artistic director and then something like an executive director who is of "equal rank". They serve to check and balance one another. Both should be answerable to the board and hired by them. The board should not be involved in the day to day running of company which usually includes mundane decisions like "What kind of toilet paper should we buy?" and "The computers are down again." They should be involved in big decisions like approving budgets and building remodels.

Link to post
Seems like the best run companies are the ones who have an artistic director and then something like an executive director who is of "equal rank".

I agree that this is the best model. I'm wary of a "CEO" (shades of Boston) that has, as his "assistant," in effect, the artistic director. I'm also frankly wary of boards who view the AD as carrying out their wishes. To me, boards should be selfless, generous artslovers who hire the best artist they can afford, and in whom they believe, and then let him make art.

Link to post

I'm a believer in the AD being top dog, because I think the artistic mission of the company needs to be put first. The only problem with that is you need an artistic director who's sensible and practical enough to listen to the ED when money and stewardship are an issue, and also sensible enough not to try to do both jobs (just as the ED shouldn't make casting suggestions). It's not a question of how bows to whom; both people need to put the artistic goals of the company first. The only financial goal should be to support the artistic ones.

Link to post

well said, mel!

and leigh the assumption is, i guess, that any AD who isn't so sensible wouldn't last long? i believe that most financial execs are not so occupied with the purpose of the company they are charged with ensuring the health of as they are with ensuring, justifying or shoring up the position they occupy. quite often, again IMO, they do so by denigrating publicly, or privately, or both, the intellectual or educational background or ability of the one who holds the artistic position. sorry for the strong language. :clapping:

i seem to recall that bruce marks as AD of boston ballet actually wore both hats though i would have to check that.

Link to post

I think I would disagree with that statement. That might be your experience but I don't think it is a typical one.

I think it is also not realistic to expect the Artistic Director of every company to be a good businessman as well, which is why it is important to have someone who can reigh in unrealistic spending. If the higher ranked AD is willing to listen to a lower ranked business manager than that situation works well. But there have been too many examples of over-zealous AD's bankrupting a company beyond repair. DTH is just the latest victim of this highly avoidable and devastating managerial error.

On the other hand, the business manager, whatever his/her official title, does need to be absolutely committed to the artistic health and vision of a company, and that person needs to understand that as priority one. An over-zealous corporate gladiator can be just as damaging to a company as an over-spending AD, with the damage being just as irreparable.

Link to post

In my observations of our local ballet company, I've reached the following conclusions about why there is a CEO position: 1. Boards of Directors are lazy and don't want to have to go to a number of sources on staff for information. They want to be spoon fed information and one stop shopping is the way to go for them. 2. As corporate representation on Boards of Directors has increased, they expect and want business models with which they are familiar and have experience. They mistakenly assume that the for-profit model is applicable to and in the non-profit world. 3. The Artistic Director of our local company is foreign born and lacks familiarity with capitalistic business models. It would appear that our Board feels that a CEO is the best way in which to address this deficiency. I would be interested in learning if other companies using the CEO model have done so for similar reasons.

Link to post
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...