Curating Leadership: A Museum Director’s View of LCI

By Jill Deupi posted

It was an honor for me to have attended the Leading Change Institute the week before last, not only because of the august reputation of LCI (and the Frye Institute before that) but also because I was the first museum professional to have done so. I was not surprised to find, over the course of the week, just how many overlapping circles there are the on the imaginary Venn diagram that connects museums– libraries–IT. Nor was I surprised by the remarkable intelligence and talents of my LCI peers, for the online group introductions in advance of our convening left no doubt in my mind about just how impressive the crowd whose ranks I was “infiltrating” was. What did surprise me was how little attention, relatively speaking, I spend—or rather spent—thinking about the state of higher education today, even though I direct an ACADEMIC art museum (the Lowe Art Museum is a part of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Miami). This of course has nothing to do with lack of interest and everything to do with lack of time. But, after LCI, I realized that I must shift my priorities and carve out precious moments to reflect more thoughtfully on the course higher education is charting and to assume a more proactive role in helping to shape that course, even if only in hyper-local ways. Similarly, I was reminded of the critical importance of making time to think carefully and critically about intentional leadership as well as what it takes to be not just a good leader but a great one. My Reflections, written at the end of Day 2, capture precisely what I was thinking and feeling as LCI began to take hold of me:

Leadership is something that comes from within. Though one can improve one’s skills and hone one’s capabilities, ultimately the ability to lead is born of an interior commitment to making meaningful change and to doing the best that one can in his/her field of endeavor. To lead successfully, you must have: strength, courage, conviction, vision, compassion, clarity, and a genuine passion for whatever it is you are trying to achieve … You must LEAD FROM WHERE YOU ARE [Elliott Shore’s eloquent point that resounded deeply with me]. Do not wait for the perfect circumstance or for long-desired changes to be enacted. Start today … Like the Pharaohs, you hold the crook and the flail, which must be used with integrity and finesse both to “shepherd” the members of your team and to keep them on track—though not of course through punishment or scourge, as in ancient Egypt, but rather through the clear articulation of expectations, frank communication, and honest feedback, especially when that feedback is a little bit difficult to deliver. 

I left LCI with a renewed commitment to improving my own leadership skills and with new tools in my “leadership toolkit” to help me achieve that critical goal. Even more important, I left DC with a new network of library and IT colleagues whom I would likely have never had cause to meet—let alone interact with in such meaningful ways—were it not for LCI. It was a remarkable week, and I am grateful to LCI’s open-minded deans, Elliott Shore and Joanne Kossuth, for their commitment to expanding the LCI dialogue to include museums as well as to Samuel H. Kress Foundation and Kress President Max Marmor for making my participation there possible. 


Jill Deupi is Beaux Arts Director and Chief Curator of the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami.