Fabric Day 1 – Core Leadership Values

Fabric is a peer-to-peer development programme, run by Creative Dundee, which supports individuals who are passionate about Dundee and wants to build on their creative leadership journey. This has created a safe space for them to share their insights and experiences, and get inspired from current leaders in the city.

More than ever we need to nurture the talents and values that will lead us to tomorrow! What we are collectively experiencing this year, with the pandemic, will have a deep impact on the way we live, work, play and relate with each other. There will be a new sense of what actually matters and creative leaders will play a pivotal role in bringing communities (back) together!

Dundee needs temporary spaces for the students and wider community to connect and prototype ideas without the pressure of success or productivity but for the purpose of testing and learning together.
– Fabric participant.

In this unsettling situation of social distancing, we invited this year participants and partners to meet in a ‘virtual’ room. We were joined by 17 individuals from different stages of their creative journey and from various creative practices – from product design, theatre and literature to youth work, research and production, to name a few. They all share the same aspiration to make big things happen and have positive impacts within the city and its communities. You can read more about this year’s Fabric participants here.

For our first day together, we spend some time to get to know each other and shared our views on leadership styles and the core values that a creative leader should nurture. Despite the physical distance, the chats were open and honest and everyone was sensitive with each other. We also recognised that although community resilience facing extreme events is based on these safe spaces where people are connected, we need to keep in mind that today’s crisis is shoving us into this ‘enforced’ creative bubbles – these ‘virtual’ meeting rooms that are not accessible by everyone.

On the top of the list of the core leadership values that we identified were kindness and listening. We also talked about the importance for creative leaders to understand and relate with the communities of people they are leading, as well as being able to take a step back, see when they are wrong and admit their mistakes. Taking risks is an important part of being a creative leader, as much as failure is for the creative process!

Experiencing first hand the benefit of being brought together to share our learnings and ideas, we discussed about the need to bring all groups and organisations that are leading creative/cultural initiatives together to have a bigger, wider impact across city. Small, quiet activism in communities is good and essential but these pockets of actions need to be strengthened by a collective leadership – a louder voice!

The impact and reach as an independent artist can be painfully slow.
– Fabric participant.

In the afternoon, we were joined by artist and peer-educator, Jonathan Baxter, who talked about his community engagement projects in the city – Dundee Urban Orchad and Dundee Commons Festival – and led a reflective discussion around the skills that a creative leader should develop.

The discussion started with the outdated vision that a leader should have a strong ego. Although we agreed that to hold a leadership role – whether by leading an organisation or a community – a robust ego is needed, it is also important not to have a fixe identity and to regularly check in with your team or community. Organisations should consider shape-shifting so they can best respond to the needs and aspirations of the communities they collaborate with, as well as the challenges and opportunities in the environment and context they operate.

Then, we pressed pause, took a piece paper and a pen, and reflect on who we are and where we are, by looking at what from the past made who we are now, and looking into the future at what we want ourselves and the world to be. Now more than ever it is the time to think about what motivates us as human beings as our ethical sensibilities should directly (and always) inform the work that we do and how we do it, and what matters the most when we lead projects and people into our ‘collectively imagined’ future.

In these exercise, the present represents the skills that we want to develop to make our ‘desired’ future happen. This could be, for example, the ability to nurture our own creativity and those of others, to be more visible and less apologetic, to take more risks, to keep informed and connected…

When working with communities, art and creative thinking are used to give people agency on their own environment.
– Fabric participant.

There are also three essential skills to cultivate when playing a role of creative leadership. The first one is ‘never block’ someone else’s idea or suggestion when offered to us so we actually encourage a good listening between each other. The second is ‘negotiating’ people’s expectations and feelings, being able to placate our partners so we can make the best of the collaboration we are engaged in. Finally, the skill of always ‘saying yes and…’ so we can build on each other’s insights and create momentum.

We conclude the day with the understanding that creative leaders have to be in a ‘state of unsettlement’. If we want to play a leadership role in your community, our present needs to be constantly unstable and we have to support our communities to build ‘shared visions’ for the future. Creative leaders drive change and make the transition from past to future!

And if you’re interested opportunities to connect with your local network, read more about our Amps Online Breakfasts.