“Two Chairs,” Flaxman Library

May 23, 2017; Crain’s Detroit Business

NPQ has recently been publishing quite a bit on the subject of shared leadership, and that includes co-directorships. We discussed the concept as it relates to executive transitions in a webinar with Tom Adams and Jeanne Bell, and once we start exploring a topic like that, we also take note of stories that illustrate it in the national news.

For instance, in Detroit, the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit is celebrating its 25th anniversary by replacing its unitary leadership model with a duo. Rick Sperling, the president and founding artistic director, will remain in the position of artistic director while the group hires a new executive director. This kind of split leadership model is not uncommon in the performing arts, but there’s no reason why it should not be considered in other types of nonprofits as well. NPQ has reported on its use in nonprofits such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Teach for America.

Mosaic has been running deficits the last few years even while the artistic side of the program has been flying high. Board chair Kate Spratt says that the new leadership design is expected to take the organization, which is known internationally for its youth arts program, to even greater success.

“Bringing in an executive director who can focus solely on fund development and nonprofit management—while Rick continues to drive creative excellence—will allow Mosaic to further grow as a strong nonprofit, impact more young people’s lives, and contribute more to the Detroit arts ecosystem,” she said.

Each co-directorship must be carefully crafted, but there is no doubt that in an environment where shared leadership is increasingly normalized, the model is less frequently dismissed out of hand.—Ruth McCambridge